Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spicy Syrian food -- and all that jazz

Aleppo Jdeydeh Christian quarterImage via Wikipedia
The Christian Quarter in Aleppo, Syria.

I haven't been to Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson's bustling Middle Eastern bazaar for several months, but our meal late Saturday afternoon couldn't have been better.

We started with pureed lentil soup scented with cumin, served with a lemon wedge and crunchy bits of toasted pocket bread; and muhammara, a dip of sweet red peppers and walnuts, made spicy with dried and ground Aleppo red peppers the owner gets from Syria.

Another appetizer is my son's favorite, meat arayes or seasoned beef inside toasted pocket bread, served in wedges.

Our whole, grilled red snapper was rubbed with more Aleppo red pepper and hot sauce. My son chose the Aleppo kebab, four skewers of ground meat. Both entrees were served with rice.

We cooled down the fire of the muhammara and fish with a refreshing dish of yogurt and cucumbers, and I finished the meal with a cup of thick Arabic coffee. My son couldn't finish his food.

This meal was both delicious and reasonably priced: $2 for a bowl of soup, $4 for the muhammara or yogurt, $6 for the arayes, $10 for the kebabs and $14 for the whole fish.

Baron hotel AleppoImage via Wikipedia
Baron Hotel in Aleppo.

During our meal, a group of nine men and women sat at a table, discussing and debating the meaning of the Koran, as Arabic music played in the background. 

I noticed that a Turkish place called Hummus, just across Main Street, had gone out of business. 

We could have gone food shopping at Fattal's Syrian Bakery, on the next block, or at Brothers Produce in the Paterson Farmers' Market near the Clifton border.

But we had tickets to a concert in The Jazz Room of William Paterson University in neighboring Wayne.

Drummer Roy Haynes, who is 86 years young, led a quartet in a half-dozen standards, bouncing around the stage, attacking his drums and playing just about everything in sight, including the mike stand and the edge of his cymbals. 

Aleppo Restaurant, 939 Main St., Paterson; 973-977-2244. No liquor allowed. 
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  1. I guess Bill Pitcher's piece on Hummus last June didn't help the place out.

  2. I just looked it up. The review was in July 2009 by Elisa Ung, who really put her foot in her mouth by calling South Paterson "Little Istanbul."

    I ate there in January 2010, and said she was wrong about the food, too, especially the bland hummus.

  3. Victor you are right, I remember Elisa Ung's review. Pitcher also had a small review of the place (it was a piece about restaurants that serve food outdoors). It is almost comical that Hummus couldn't deliver on their namesake dish.


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