Past an open kitchen, where chefs roll and bake fresh flatbreads, the air scented with toasted flour, and beyond the Moorish-tiled communal table, there lies the seductive and sophisticated dining room—all charcoals and candlelight—of Mamnoon.
Former Microsoft execs Wassef and Racha Haroun opened the restaurant across the street from the popular Melrose Market late last year. Celebrating the flavors of Syria, Lebanon and the greater Middle East, Mamnoon is chic and delicious—and in a year of openings that garnered louder buzz and hotter anticipation, Mamnoon’s sublime food and subtle sexiness make it a stand-out.
Heading the kitchen is Garrett Melkonian, most recently a pastry chef at Spring Hill and, prior to that, for Tom Douglas, although here, the kitchen’s oeuvre is roundly savory: garlic, sesame, sumac and allspice, pistachio, lamb, lemon and yogurt combine to remarkable effect. I could return daily for the tender grilled lamb kefta (ground lamb patties with pistachio, $19), labneh (thick, strained yogurt with lemon and garlic, $8), and spice-crusted cauliflower, fried and served with sesame-laced tarrator sauce ($7).
Of course you’ll want to tear off pieces of warm man’oushe, the pita-like flatbread barely scented with thyme; dip into the fluffy, soft baba ghanoush (charred eggplant dip) or the muhammarra, a thick, addictive roasted pepper and walnut dip tangy with pomegranate molasses.
Even the cocktails add new depth to the city’s maturing scene: Forgoing witty names, they’re simply numbered. Might I suggest the utterly perfect Number Five: bourbon, fig paste, bitters and walnut liqueur? On early visits, service was somehow plentiful and kind yet sometimes spacy and sparse. Even so, Mamnoon is already great. I expect that, once this last piece falls into place, it’ll be sublime.
Lunch and dinner Tue.–Sun. Capitol Hill, 1508 Melrose Ave; 206.906.9606; mamnoonrestaurant.com $$