Lebanese lunch salvation

By Harold

EmilysIs Emily a common Lebanese name? I sure as hell don’t know, but the thought crossed my mind as Lewis and I sat upstairs in the crowded Emily’s Lebanese Deli, so beat down from another week of soul-crushing work that silent rumination was all we could muster. Thankfully, the inane conversation from the neighboring table served as an odd sort of balm, reminding me that while here, at our table, sat two pathetic losers, we didn’t hold a candle to these rubes. Comfort indeed.

But enough of that classless shadenfreude.  This isn’t about a German restaurant but Lebanese, and what about the fucking food? Ah, yes, the food. I knew there was a reason I feel so sleepy…

The food is, in a word, good.  Or at least the chow my compatriot and I had was good. Of course, ours was just a smidgen of Emily’s overall offerings, most of which we didn’t sample, since we’re the ones picking up the damn tab. But our meal, anyway, was top notch.

Water right away, followed quickly by enough tabouli and flat bread to kill a horse. (Or camel?) We scarfed it down with alarming gusto, finding in that yuletide-colored concoction of parsley and bulgur and mint and tomato a brief respite from our respective mid-life crises. And next…it was all up to us now. We scanned the menu, grunting between bites, prodded by the tabouli into a devil-may-care mania to look beyond the familiar kabob towards…the special? Yes, the special. For one of us, anyway, the other going for a rice/chicken/lamb/pine nut affair whose name I’d know if I’d only grabbed a damn menu (riz ma djaj).  And soup.

I love soup. And this one did not disappoint. Nothing fancy, just vegetables and broth with some tender meat to round it out. But the carrots! Cross-sections as big as the bowl. This was one well-endowed carrot.  Lucky bastard. No sooner had we devoured the soup than here she was, our ball-crushing server, main course in hand. The special: glistening lamb ribs the color of Erik Estrada, covered with cardamom seeds, the meat’s tenuous hold on the bone akin to mine with reality. Scrumptious.

The rice/chicken/lamb/pine nut affair is no slouch either. No sooner do we dig in than, with nary a glance, my dark-skinned ribs are commingling with his virgin-white rice. Strom Thurmond would not like this! No matter, he’s dead. We push on, eating with disgusting rapidity, our stomachs crying, “We’re sated, we’re sated,” entreaties we dismiss with a chortled “Quiet! We’re Americans.”

And then, as quickly as it began, the fury is over. The bones on the plate the only evidence that a meal was had. The check comes; modest we both agree. As I get up to leave, I note that the dreaded drumbeat that normally accompanies my return to work is oddly muted. For a moment, I’m at peace in a place called Lebanon, safe in the care of Emily, who, native or not, has agreed to take me in.

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