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Tabboule Changes Hands, and Some Dishes

A return to Tabboule shows good food and uneven service

Tabboule is a Lebanese restaurant in the King’s shopping center with a convoluted past. We the shop in January, but ownership has since changed, and with it both the decor and the menu. 

“We added additional Lebanese dishes,” said owner Mike Abdou, who says he and his wife Amy took over in January after a confused negotiation with the previous owners. “We also added extra deserts, like our kenafeh. We also added to the menu more kid-friendly dishes like wings and burgers.”

With that in mind we approached the restaurant anew. Mrs. Abdou, who Mr. Abdou said was an interior designer, had redecorated–the ceiling now sports an arched faux-skybox, and new paintings adorn the walls. The space is small and still laid out cafeteria-style, with a large counter filling much of the room. 

We started with the falafel, recommended by the owner, who told us it was “probably the best in falafel in the tri-state area.” It is, in fact, great–crisp on the outside with a flavorful inside, it’s a great start to a meal. 

The grilled mushrooms are heavily spiced, texturing them and giving a new twist a familiar dish. With a moist inside that steamed when we cut them open, the mushrooms were a treat. 

I had the veggie combo for our main course, while my partner ordered the beef kabob. The combo brought more falafel, fried eggplant and cauliflower, and a vegetable omelet backed up by cilantro potatoes, all with tahini sauce. The variation was nice, if uneven–the cauliflower was good, while the omelet was a little dry, and the eggplant fell somewhere in between. The potatoes rounded the dish with a rich, crisp flavor.

The beef kabob was very good, its spices and components cooked together rather than separately, and all of it served on a bed of lettuce and spiced rice.

Soda and water are offered by the can and the bottle–there is no such thing as “just a glass of water” here. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, though, it would be worth the extra 50 cents to spring for a Lebanese lemonade, which has a unique flavor of added rosewater. 

For desert, we opted for the Lebanese-style rice pudding, but sadly they were out–we were offered milk pudding instead, which we accepted. It was interestingly garnished, and the pudding flavorful if somewhat plain–I could not help a pang of longing for the absent rice. 

We visited twice, and were served by two different people each time. The first time, we were served by a waiter whom I later learned to be the manager. The service was less than perfect–our server was unhelpful and terse when asked questions about the menu.

On our second visit, we were served by a waitress, who was friendly, polite and very helpful. The service this time was much better than on our first trip.

Later, while trying to get in contact with the owner for the purposes of this review, the manager was outright rude. It was very difficult to get a clear answer as to who owned the store, when they would be in, or if there was any time I could reach them. This went on for several weeks over numerous tense and unhelpful conversations until Abdou was finally made available.

“I’ve been eating here for three years,” said Mike Abdou. “My background is in sales and marketing... my wife’s passion is the food industry.”

Abdou emphasized the vegetarian dishes on the menu, which do offer a good range of choices for those who would leave meat out of their dining experience. He also recommended the shawerma, similar to a gyro.

 James Kleimann contributed to this report. 

Steve August 27, 2011 at 12:06 PM
What is the deal with this restaurant being so secretive about who the owners are? I made a comment in the last review of this restaurant that the previous owners were tight-lipped -- even dishonest -- about who the real owners are. It was a perfectly fair question to ask, becuase the owner that originally opened this restaurant a few years back did a great job. The second owner after him claimed he had been the only owner, which was clearly untrue. Now these third owners are continuing the deception? What gives??
Mike A August 27, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Dear Steve, my name is Amy Abdou and my husband and I took over the restaurant in January 2011. We are not related to any of the previous owners and proud to be Tabboule's owners and to be serving the community of Ridgewood. Unfortunately, we have been away with the kids on vacation when the Patch came to the restaurant to review and hence the confusion. Having said that, I apologize for any inadequate behavior by one of my staff and be assured that person has been reprimanded. It is our pleasure to serve our customers and we look forward to seeing you at our place soon. Feel free to call or come in and ask for myself or my husband Mike if you have any questions or concerns. Also, you can log into our website (www.tabboule.com) and check the "about us" page. Kind Regards, Amy Abdou Tabboule

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