One of the pleasures of summer in Italy is the chance to indulge in the grilled vegetable plate, usually a few slices of perfectly cooked zucchini, eggplant and tomato, warm, sweet and savory with that great olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. For some reason, this simple dish is really hard to replicate in U.S. restaurants.
But my favorite Lebanese restaurant gets it. Their dinner appetizer Matale is the best of this sort I’ve had in the U.S., even though it comes with tahini sauce instead of fruity olive oil. The thin vegetable slices are light, delicate and velvety soft with an accompaniment of crunchy cauliflower to offset the texture. I suppose you could ask for olive oil and they’d serve some. An order of this plus some soup and most of us would be set. Not that you shouldn’t try the other items of the fabulous menu.
Karam has some touches that make a meal there a lovely experience. The owner is gracious and eager to please without being at all cloying. The service is efficient and attentive. And tea fans listen up: Karam serves it in loose leaf and in a small teapot, small but highly significant gestures.