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.