Allison Cook -
The mesquite smoke permeates an eggplant (dip) that has been blackened to a soft, evocative pulp. Most baba ghanouj dips in town depend on garlic, or lemon, or quantities of sesame-based tahini sauce for their character. La Fendee's version, creamy-smooth rather than coarse, thrives on its smokiness.
I could eat it three times a week, given an ample supply of pita bread, and I blush to say I have.
mezze plate: the requisite salads and dips here are uniformly attractive. The tabouli is one of the best in the city: juicy, tart, verdant with parsley, bristling with chopped tomato and scallion. Its flecks of bulghur wheat stay modestly in the background.
Hummus, the lemony chickpea-and-sesame spread, comes swirled with olive oil and crushed sumac leaves the color of garnets. The deluxe assortment brings a couple of irresistible, homestyle grape leaves stuffed with rice. (I find it hard to leave without bagging an order to go.)
Even the beef shawarma that comes with the deluxe mezze is worth eating, its shards crusty at the edges and tinged with cinnamon. I tend to view shawarma, its stacked layers twirling endlessly on a vertical spit, as overcooked mystery meats. This one, I admire.
Not so the gyros, a pressure-formed blend of lamb and beef that here is sliced thin and long. It's scary to look at and not much better to taste. Why not just leave it to the Greeks?
Especially since La Fendee's Middle-Eastern-style kebabs are so much more appealing.
La Fendee Mediterranean Grill: 1402 Westheimer at Yupon
Prices: starters $1.49-$4.99; entrees $3.95-$7.99.
Reservations: first come, first served
Noise level: quiet to moderate
The Other Tortillas
The other day my sister made a Spanish totilla and I had to tell her what it was. In Spain they are egg, potato, onion and cheese omelet, not flat round wheat or corn bread.
Here is where to find tortilla espagnola in Houston.
Up yours to lousy restaurants
The Houston Press has recently been doing what newspapers rarely do in their dining columns - slamming poor food and service. Problems with osso buco and Cowboy Cooking gone bad are two recent examples.