Monday, May 6, 2013

CAFÉ MATINEE – Lebanese cuisine at its best.

Do not drive by this place without stopping in to try the delicious exotic foods.  First impression is that it is a whole in the wall tucked in a run down strip mall that needs a little revamping to bring it up to par with the other strip malls in the area.  However, DO NOT let that dissuade you.  This place is diamond in the rough.

For anyone who has never had Lebanese food you are in for a treat.  The staple ingredient is garlic and olive oil.  Mix that combination with fresh herbs and you have something special.  Most people believe all Mediterranean cuisines are the same and frequently interchange Lebanese food with Greek food.  The national Lebanese dish is Kibbeh, an emulsified paste of the freshest lamb and bulgur wheat.  Every meal is eaten with bread seasoned with Zahtar which is combination of thyme and sumac. 

When you first take a peek at the menu you might think it is expensive but it is not for all the food you receive.  Each meal comes with a huge salad, pita bread, homemade olives and pickled turnips.  But the star of the meal is the hummus pay the extra $2.99 you will not be disappointed it.  The hummus is homemade smooth and creamy.  Through all my travels through Europe including Turkey I have never had this texture of hummus before.  It actually has a buttery taste.  It was by far the best hummus I have ever tasted throughout my travels.  I highly recommend it to accompany any meal at Café Matinee.  I tried to buy a bucket of it to take home but the waiter turned down my request. Darn it!

For an appetizer I recommend Cheese Pie Zantar.  It is fresh baked bread topped with Lebanese cheese, zesty vegetarian mixture, and oregano and sesame oil.  It is my new addiction I took another home to indulge in while watching a movie. 

If you want something more hearty and meaty then the Kebbeh Balls are for you.  They are made with ground beef and cracked wheat ball stuffed with lamb, ground onions and pine nuts.  Simply delightful.  However, as with every good Lebanese restaurant they serve the traditional Stuffed Grape Leaves – vegetarian style.

Entrée’s consist of a variety of dishes including Chicken Shawarma, Filet Mignon, Lamb  Kabob and Falafel.  There are daily specials which are quite inexpensive.  The specials are around $10.99 and include everything but hummus.  I came specifically to try the Chicken Shawarma.  A good chicken shawarma is moist and flavorful which honestly is hard to do.  Most chicken shawarmas turn out excessively dry and just tasteless.  I was excited to discover that this was not the case. It was so moist and flavorful I thought I died and went to heaven.

The service is outstanding.  This is a little mom and pop shop so attention to customer service and quality of food is superior. I do not think there is anything that Chef Ramsay could complain about at this top notch establishment.  As we are running out of these gems I strongly recommend that everyone take a drive to Lake Forest and give this restaurant a shot.  It is well worth the mileage and your tummy will be happy.  This diamond is worth 4 Forks Up for price, service and excellent food. 

  23532 El Toro Road, Lake Forest, CA 92630


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