[eat] mamnoon

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It didn’t take me long to cross off one of the restaurants on the list that I posted earlier this week. When faced with the option of going to the gym or going to dinner right up the street from the Paramount (where we had entered the lottery for Book of Mormon tickets), we obviously decided that it was in the best interest of Seattle by Sarah to go to dinner.

Mamnoon is a Middle Eastern restaurant that just opened across the street from the Melrose Market (which we stopped by on our way to dinner). It’s a gorgeous restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner, and also features a takeout menu.

Let’s start with the entrance. We were a bit confused because the front door has no handle, so we entered through the takeout window door. This was fine because ultimately you end up at the same place, but slightly confusing… I only mention it because I was so confused and I don’t want you to feel that way too.

If you’re standing at the host stand, you’ll notice that the register for takeout is immediately to your right, which is part of a partial kitchen that seems to be exclusively dedicated to making fresh breads. There’s a giant oven and you can watch them roll out and fire up the small pita pockets and the bread for the sandwiches (which I think are on the lunch menu). The rest of the kitchen is way back at the other end of the room.

To the left, there is a long and tall counter and stools that could serve as a communal table, but on this particular night was being used as a food styling/photography station and also seated with some solo diners.

The main room features a variety of different seating styles and arrangements. We were seated on the left, at a benched 2-top that was almost uncomfortably close to the two other tables surrounding it, but obviously could be easily adjusted to accommodate larger groups. Directly across from us was a fun round table that seats about 6 people, right underneath one of the more fabulous light fixtures I’ve ever seen. It’s like a multicolored bunch of grapes. I think I have or had a pair of earrings that are almost just like them. You can’t tell from the photo below, so you’ll just have to visit yourself. One of the things I liked most about the space is that there are lots of different seating options, each which I think will give you a different perspective of the room – for example, Edgar could see the tiny bar and I had no idea it was even there until we were leaving.

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In general, the room is really dark so obviously these photos don’t really do the food any kind of justice. I felt awkward about taking them at all because there was a professional photographer right next to us with skill and equipment that obviously rivaled my cell phone’s capacity.

But let’s talk food and drink:

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So there’s a fun cocktail list full of things I have never heard of, and the food menu is really designed for sharing. Keeping in mind that two of my rules for dining out are 1) never order anything you’re pretty confident you can make yourself, and 2) always ask for a recommendation from your server, we decided to order a bunch of little plates (priced between about $7-$10) and then one item from the list of grilled options because kebabs are something that we identified with Middle Eastern cuisine. (For example, we did not order the hummus, tabbouleh or fattoush because of rule #1.) Here’s how it went down:

First, you are brought a small basket with two kinds of bread and a dipping sauce with some kind of herb mixture in it (pictured above).  Make sure to dig down and get some of the herbs, because that’s where the flavor is.

fried cauliflower by candlelight
fried cauliflower by candlelight

We first selected the stuffed grape leaves (not pictured) because Edgar is obsessed with them and always orders them. Nine times out of ten, I don’t care for them but these were delicious. From there, we ordered the fried cauliflower (arnabeit makli) which was really light yet crispy and spicy. We ordered the falafel next, which was served with pickled vegetables. I am always looking for good falafel and I am sad to say that I don’t think this was it. The balls themselves were really small – as if they were meant to be bite-sized, and they were also very hard. The flavor was there, but I would have preferred that they had been a little less done, as the texture kind of hurt the roof of my mouth.

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falafel with pickled beets, baby carrots and cucumbers

Since we’d ordered three small plates plus two servings of bread and were watching our wallets, we decided that we would order the shish taouk (does this translate into “chicken”? because that’s what it was) from the grill ($14). The grill items are served with one side, so we chose cucumber/yogurt dish which is kind of like a Greek tzatziki sauce, because we thought it would be cool and refreshing, which it was. The chicken was served in a bowl with some grilled/roasted pearl onions and cherry tomatoes, which really fell by the wayside because the chicken itself was SO DELICIOUS. I do not know how long they had to marinate the chicken in olive oil, lemon and garlic but holy moly it was probably the most flavorful chicken I’ve ever had and I am determined to replicate this as soon as possible. (Who are we kidding? I think I’ll just leave it to the professionals.)

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chicken with pearl onions, tomatoes and a cucumber/yogurt side dish

At the end of our meal, we were given two little (shot) glasses of “orange blossom water”, which Edgar immediately compared to the smell of Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s supposed to be a palate cleanser but it was a little bit too soapy for my taste.

Our bill came out to about $20/person, not including tip, which of course we did include. I felt alright about this, but we were also very mindful of the prices and raised our eyebrows several times at some of the menu items, such as the $36 and $38 fish entrees that are meant to serve two people. I’m glad that we didn’t order these because then I would have felt stressed out about ordering multiple small plates to start, but I have no doubt that the sea bass that they fly in from Greece is tasty – but I felt no need to pay for it’s airfare. I think it’d be really easy to go out of control and spend a lot more than we did.

I definitely recommend Mamnoon and would like to return soon to continue to sample things from the menu – we played it safe and stuck to things that sounded familiar enough (though we certainly couldn’t pronounce one single thing on the menu). I will definitely stop back and try things from the lunch and takeout menus because I’m curious about how the prices and portion sizes relate, and I’d love to try one of the griddled sandwiches that we saw being styled and photographed. As for dinner, I think you can make it affordable if you plan on sharing – we certainly left full, but not in that laden-down kind of way. Check it out and let me know what you think!

One other thing that I thought was interesting: at the bottom of the dessert menu (which we didn’t order from), they have a note about their “goodwill” partnership with glassybaby: for $75, you can purchase a special Mamnoon-colored glassybaby, $20 of which is donated to the United Nations Syrian Refugee Agency. I definitely appreciate the partnership and the charitable effort of the restaurant. 

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