Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 4201 Veterans Blvd. 504-889-9950. Map.
AE DC DS MC V
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Hidden in a large strip mall whose other restaurants include Houston’s and Chili’s, Phoenicia is an unexpected pleasure. With one of the best Middle Eastern kitchens in the area and a handsome dining room, the food is undiluted. The menu doesn’t venture beyond the familiar Lebanese dishes, but these are executed unusually well.
The combination kebab platter is a good example of the kitchen’s skill. They’re all tender but not too, marinated to deliciousness, nicely seasoned, and cooked to a char on the outside while not drying the meat out. The hummus and rice that come with it are first-class. All this is true of the other entrees, with the exception of items I wouldn’t order anywhere (gyros and tilapia). The portions, typical of Lebanese restaurants, are too large to finish comfortably. The olive-oil-and-herb dipping sauce and pita bread they bring at the beginning is sort of a make-it-yourself zaatar bread.
Phoenicia opened in the Independence Mall in 2003, taking over the space of a failed, fancy Chinese restaurant. The place took moderate damage from Katrina but was back open within a few months.
Among the most atmospheric of Lebanese restaurants in the area, Phoenicia sports a high, sloping ceiling that makes an impression of comfort and circumstance. It takes you by surprise the first time, because from the outside it looks like any other strip mall restaurant. Occasionally, belly dancers give performances during dinner. On cold evenings wind blows through the dining room whenever anyone opens the door, and it’s a bit chilly in there.
»Battata harra (spicy, garlicky hash brown potatoes).
»Lebneh (yogurt with mint and garlic).
»Grape leaves stuffed with rice, mint and ground beef and lamb.
»Halloumi (white cheese with tomato and garlic sauce).
Chicken or beef shawarma.
»Chicken, lamb, or kafta kebabs.
Shrimp or salmon kebabs. kebabs.
»Ashta (like Creole cream cheese, with pistachios and orange flower water syrup).
FOR BEST RESULTS
Back off one step from the initial order you make. It will almost certainly be too much food.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
You are not likely to be greeted at the door by anyone, but the restaurant looks good enough that one expects this. (Just sit down.)
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking