Suraya brings a Lebanese flair to Fishtown
Fishtown has been my home for the last few years, and I love my little corner of the city. I constantly tell people how lucky I feel to live here: my neighbors are friendly, the streets are largely well-kept and cute and there are plenty of bars and restaurants to explore.
That last point, though, comes with a caveat: there are a ton of great bars and restaurants to explore if you really like tacos and burgers. Fishtown has a lot of great dining options that serve really solid food, but most fall into the pub grub category. If you weren't in the mood for that, it was basically tacos (from either the excellent Heffe Tacos or one of the carts along Girard) or bust. Sure, you had Murph's for their famous homemade pasta or the more recent addition of Cheu Fishtown, but the standard was still largely bar food.
Enter Suraya, the newest Fishtown restaurant daring to bring something new to the neighborhood. The Lebanese market and restaurant opened this past fall, and it was at the top of my list to try after the holiday rush was over. I was finally able to visit this past Sunday, when I went with a few people with the intent of trying basically everything on the menu. For, uh, critiquing purposes.
As of right now, the market portion of Suraya is open. Eventually, there is expected to be an outdoor garden and bar area, as well as a larger restaurant (at least, as far as I can gather). For now, though, only the market menu is available, so this is all we were able to try.
Not that the market menu was anything to turn your nose up at. On the contrary, I was thrilled with my meal(s) and am already planning a return trip. For variety, we ordered from most of the menu sections (because we went before the official start of lunch, we weren't able to sample the small selection of salads and sandwiches). We settled on a jalousie (a pastry stuffed with apple, date, pistachio and ceylon cinnamon); a rose and pistachio cruller; a man'oushe (Lebanese flatbread) with za'atar, labne, olive, cucumber, tomato and mint; babba ganoush; and slow-roasted lamb hummus. We washed it all down with a jallab (a drink with date molasses, pine nuts and rosewater) and a clementine ginger soda.
Let's get the (very minor) negatives out of the way. I wasn't blown away by the flatbread. The flavors were nice, but I just didn't think it was anything to write home about. Plus, eating it meant I had less room for hummus, which was an absolute crime committed against my stomach.
And now the good: THAT HUMMUS. I hadn't placed a ton of hope in the "slow-roasted lamb" portion of the hummus description, assuming it would have the flavor of the meat rather than actual chunks of lamb. And yet actual chunks of tender lamb nestled in the middle of smooth, creamy hummus was exactly what I got. The babba ganoush was lighter (most things are lighter than "chunks of lamb," after all), but I loved the addition of pomegranate seeds, a combination I wouldn't have thought to try, but now can't believe I've lived this long without.
I have a sweet tooth, so for me the real star of the show was the rose and pistachio cruller. Don't get me wrong, the jalousie was great (think apple pie/Lebanese danish), but anything would have paled in comparison to the cruller, which was light and airy despite it's gigantic size. It's definitely on the sweeter side (it's basically a donut, after all), but you're missing out if you visit Suraya and don't buy at least one of these.
The market also offers some interesting coffees (including a Lebanese chai I have my eye on) and a few interesting yogurt bowls. I'm planning to stop by and try a few more items before work one day...while stocking up on pastries, of course.