Lebanese delight

Kababji delivers good value and good service for the hard-pressed workers in Burnside.

As Dartmouth Crossing continues its seemingly endless expansion, so grow the options for lunch spots within easy distance from the thousands of Haligonians who spend their days toiling in the offices of Burnside. But they needn't look as far as the shopping mecca---nestled right in the middle of the industrial park is Kababji.

I head for lunch there with a friend who works a stone's throw away from the restaurant. We open the door to an almost empty restaurant---only one table is full---and a server shouts a friendly greeting to us. It's just starting to snow, so she tells us to take our pick of the almost empty restaurant, urging us inward, where it's warmer.

The dining room is big, and prettily decorated with caramel tones and warm lighting that makes it feel cozy and inviting. There are a lot of tables filling the room, but high ceilings keep it from feeling cramped.

The menu is mostly Lebanese fare---standards like hummus, foul, falafel and various kebabs---but there is also a smattering of American dishes. We stick to the Lebanese food, indulging in the BBQ platter for two ($44.99) which is a hearty lunch, to say the least. As the dishes start to arrive, we realize that there is easily enough food for three or four people.

The first thing out of the kitchen is a bowl of thick, creamy hummus, which is attractively plated with a generous dollop of olive oil pooling in the curves and some whole chickpeas and chopped green onion on top. It's mild and nutty with a nice hum of garlic in each smooth bite. We choose tabouli as our salad since it's always a great complement to the chickpeas.

The leafy pile of tabouli is fresh and lemony, with fresh pops of tomato and perky hints of mint. Tucked into a wedge of soft pita with the hummus, it's a delicious start to the meal. There is more than enough pita for the two of us, but our server pops by just to let us know to just give her a wave, should we want any more.

A moment later she returns with a small bowl of rice---a savoury Lebanese pilaf with vermicelli mixed in---which she drops off before returning with a plate stacked with kebabs.

Along with two skewers of marinated chicken---shish taouk---there are two beef kebabs and four with ground beef and lamb. They look and smell wonderful, but all of them are a little on the tough side. The meat is pretty overcooked across the board, and hard to pry off of burnt skewers, which snap apart when any force is applied. Chewy as the meat is, it is also seasoned nicely and tastes quite good, especially with added moisture from a bowl of garlic paste that was brought out as a condiment, in case we wanted a little more zip in any of the dishes.

We spend the better part of an hour chatting and eating, and our server checks in often, making sure our water is always full and that we are happy with the meal. When it's clear that we've had our fill, she scoops up the leftovers for us, and packs them up so we can be on our way.

Hours later, the leftovers make for a nice dinner. Even with the overcooked meat, the marinades and seasoning are on point, and while it's not as fresh as it was when it first hit the table, nothing suffers too badly from sitting in the fridge. I still have hummus and tabouli left the next day, which makes me feel like it was money well spent.

The restaurant is a bit out of the way for anybody looking for a quick dinner, but it was worth the trip and it's a great lunch pick for the working stiffs who populate Burnside every day.

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