Samia's Phoenician. Food from the heart.
If you're in the mood for fresh, good quality, Middle Eastern cuisine, then head to Samia's Phoenician Grill. This quaint eatery is tucked in a plaza across from the Southern Park Mall. It's not over the top fancy. It's simple but once you taste what Samia has to offer, you'll find it's anything but simple.
Samia, herself, is so kind and so true to her culture. She is soft spoken and looks you in the eye when she talks about her food. She speaks and cooks from her heart. Everything is made from love and see that in every dish and taste it in every bite. She has a hand in all the cooking. What you order today, will taste just as good the next time you visit. Samia proudly says, "I use the best quality meat and vegetables. If it's not good I won't use it. No cans. Everything from scratch."
She offers a menu of items that she grew up eating and uses nothing but the best of everything. Immaculately clean, she welcomes anyone to come into her kitchen. She is proud of the quality of her food and couldn't wait to show me how she maintains it. I was whisked to the back of the restaurant to see where it all begins. In the kitchen. It's spotless. She showed me a container of fresh ground meat. That's right. She grinds her own meat from large roasts that are trimmed of all the fat for the kibbee. Fresh vegetables everywhere. And then in the back, large sacks of, chick peas and fava beans. When Samia says everything is made from scratch she's not kidding. She soaks the chick peas and fava beans overnight, mixes them with parsley, onion and spices then fries them. Amazing Falafel from scratch. The hummus is also made fresh by starting with the overnight soak of the chick peas then blended into a wonderful creamy dip. Pita bread is made fresh daily.
Two of the most popular dishes, according to Samia, are the "tabouli and kibbee balls". Her personal favorite, and one of mine, is the Fattoush Salad which was the first dish I tried. Fresh chopped romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and fresh baked pita chips tossed in a light house dressing. I'm a salad fan and this one is delicious. I ate every bite. It's the perfect blend of flavors and textures. I wouldn't change a thing with this salad. I love it just the way it is.
Another favorite of mine is Shankleesh. Of course Samia makes her own Shankleesh and actually gave me a ball to take home. She told me it takes 8 days of drying to get it right and it is so good. I've been eating it every day. This special dried cheese is mixed with chopped parsley, diced onions, tomatoes, green peppers and a dash of olive oil. Samia emphasized that it's just a dash, not too much. It's got a little heat to it and it's wonderful. It's an absolute must.
She then brought out a platter with a nice array of tastings. Grapes leaves, which by the way, are the best I've ever had, Shish Kabab, Shish Tawook and some lovely rice. The tightly wrapped cigar shaped meat and rice filled grape leaves are yummy. I just love picking them up and eating them one after another. The skewers of lamb and chicken were excellent. Very tender, lots of flavor. They're served with both a garlic sauce and a pepper sauce. The pepper sauce tastes like chopped up pickled peppers. Not hot, not sweet. Just a mild blend. The garlic sauce I love, but beware, the aroma of garlic will go home with you. Knowing that, I still want the garlic sauce, I used it on both the lamb and chicken and it was awesome. The rice was great as well. It's a perfect compliment to the lamb and chicken, yet flavorful on its own.
You feel good when you eat Samia's food. Nothing is heavy, no thick sauces. It's all very light and refreshing yet filling. Lots of flavors and spices, everything has it's own unique taste yet they all compliment each other making for a wonderful meal. You get a little heat from the Shankleesh, cool down with the garlic sauce, and nice tender chunks of meat from the kabobs.
As I sat enjoying every bite, I watched as a steady flow of customers came and went. People walk up to the counter, place their order and either sat at one of the tables or got their order to go. Some had called ahead and their order was ready when they arrived.
Samia sent me home with a couple other things to try. Meat and Spinach Pies which I nibbled on later that night with my other delicious leftovers. The pies are like little turnovers made from Samia's famous homemade dough filled with lots of good stuff. The Meat Pies I really like. Ground lamb, lots of seasoning, onion and pine nuts, I love pine nuts, all tucked into a triangle pocket. Like a Middle Eastern sloppy joe without the sloppy. Really good. The Spinach Pie is a favorite of a friend of mine. Same little turnover triangle filled with a blend of spinach, onion, lemon and spices.
Whether you dine in, or get it to go, try Samia's Phoenician Grill. It's wonderful food from a wonderful lady.