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dish of middle eastern food

“We need to do it,” I said.

“Leave Manhattan?” Suzen was concerned.

“Yes,” I said and waved the car keys.

Like many New Yorkers, we tend to stay far too close to our local neighborhood and miss the treasures in other parts of the city. We live, work, and stay in Lower Manhattan. Yesterday we ventured to Brooklyn for three reasons.

First, we visited Ann Nurse, a culinary deity who has mentored and mothered Suzen for years. Ann is lovely at slightly beyond 65, and loves to talk about food, people, and places. She treated us to a copy of James Peterson’s new book, Kitchen Simple, which we’ll blog soon.

Second, Suzen needed olive oil. Gallons and gallons of good oil. A mile from Ann is D. Coluccio and Sons, an Italian market and importer of exceptional quality. It’s worth the visit to the Sunset Park store just to walk in and smell the cheese. If you close your eyes, you’ll be convinced that you have flown to Rome. It’s a wonderful store with shelves overflowing with pasta, sauces, condiments, and treats that can be on so hard to find.

Ah, they carry olive oils. With our ten, yes ten, gallons of oil packed in our car, we asked Louie Coluccio where to go to eat. We expected directions to one of the hidden Italian eateries scattered across the borough. We were surprised. Our directions were to a Middle Eastern restaurant we had certainly heard about but never explored: Tanoreen located in Bay Ridge, as lovely a community as you could hope to find. There are side streets filled with lovely homes and apartment buildings solidly standing with brick and stone walls. And there is 3rd Avenue with an awesome array of eating establishments that stand toe-to-toe with Manhattan.

On 75th Street and 3rd is the new version of Tanoreen. Owner Rawai Bishara has expanded to a beautiful new space filled with color, wonderful scents, and a hungry crowd ready to taste Middle Eastern cuisine raised to a superior level. There is a simple way to describe the food here: classy. The names may be the ones you know from local “food stands” — for example falafel. But here at Tanoreen, only the name is the same. The care, the execution, the quality of ingredients, and the perfect cooking give new dimensions to all the dishes. Oh, and the presentation. That picture above shows a typical Tandoreen plate and is a metaphor for the food experience. That circle of parsley is the gateway to dishes that are abundant in flavors, scents, and textures.

The nightly list of specials is almost as long as the regular menu. I had pea-sized handmade pasta balls paired with chicken, onions and pearl cous cous in a broth you wanted to swim in. The pasta and chicken had been cooked to the perfect minute, then plated and rushed to my table with steam still rising. Suzen had shredded lamb mixed with yogurt and vegetables. It was tangy, yet subtle, the kind of comfort food you could not stop eating. Fortunately, the servings are gargantuan. We left with two bags of leftovers to enjoy for today’s lunch. It’s 11:20 as I write this. Lunch will be at 11:25.

The staff at Tandoreen is intelligent, helpful and gracious. If it is your first experience with Middle Eastern food, they will carefully guide you to a delicious start. If you are an experienced foodie, there is always more to learn and experience. At Tandoreen, they can take you for an extended, exceptional  journey.