When we walked into Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson just past noon today, a long table had been set with the classic Syrian meal of small plates called maza -- 11 appetizers, bread and pickles that would have made a great meal in themselves.
Me and my wife, Marjorie, were joined by seven others: Jason Perlow; his wife, Rachel; and readers of this blog and Jason's Off The Broiler ode to great restaurant food.
The restaurant first opened on the other side of Main Street -- in the Middle Eastern bazaar known as South Paterson -- and now occupies the clean, simply decorated rooms of a failed Turkish restaurant, Kafe Teria. It's named after the city in northern Syria where my Jewish parents were born and my grandfather was a pastry maker.
The food we ate was beautifully seasoned with cumin, allspice, tamarind, mint, lemon and Aleppo pepper. We had hummus, muhammara, labaneh, meat arayes, raw kibbe, sambusak with meat or cheese, fried kibbe, tabbouleh, a soupy dish of fava beans and another of yogurt with diced cucumbers. Wonderful.
But there was more: entrees of eggplant and squash stuffed with meat and rice; an extraordinary kabob and bread soaked with cherry sauce; small dumplings packed with meat in a yogurt sauce; and a mixed grill with shish kebab, kufta kebab and chicken, with hot peppers, tomato and onion.
We walked off the meal by visiting Fattal's and Nouri's, the rival Syrian bakeries and markets. Then we returned to the restaurant for dessert, a honey-soaked cake with walnuts and strong Arabic coffee.
The only sour note were the no-shows, four or five people who failed to keep their word that they would attend. Of course, that meant we took home containers of leftovers, enough food for at least a couple of delicious meals.
On Sunday morning, the fava beans and the dips, with the addition of a couple of ounces of smoked wild salmon (Costco) and olives and warmed pita (Fattal's), made a great breakfast. For dinner, I'll polish off the fried kibbe, kufta kabob and stuffed squash with more pita and a salad.
For vivid pictures of our lunch, please click on the following link to Jason's blog:
Here's a link with more information about Aleppo, Syria, which I visited in the late 1970s.
(This post was revised on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009.)