The Phoenician Cuisine café sits in a small space just two doors down from the Embassy Theatre on Kent Terrace. The décor is rather nondescript from the outside, but once inside, the beautiful enlarged photos of Lebanon are enticing, that is, if you can take your eyes off of the food. The smell hits you instantly upon entering, a warming scent with a hint of cinnamon and pita bread. Falafel balls sit on the border of a fry pan behind the counter, awaiting their turn to be cooked.
The menu offers many delicious vegetarian choices and, though tempted by the falafel, I opted for mehshi: stuffed grape leaves wrapped in a pita bread with hummus. The woman behind the counter took my order and promptly set to work preparing my meal. I was not disappointed. The pita bread was thick and soft, nicely warmed so that the hummus oozed its way throughout. It was packed with a fair amount of grape leaves and the slight vinegar taste from them went beautifully with the rice mix that they were stuffed with.
I was pleasantly full upon finishing, although my eyes were wanting more once they spotted the baklava on the countertop. I ordered one along with a Lebanese coffee and again was not disappointed. If you like a strong coffee, then this is the place for you. A small glass was brought out for me on a silver tray, filled with coffee so thick that it coated the sides as I turned the glass. It was the perfect pairing to go with the sweet honey and pistachio flavour of the baklava. The ceremony of the coffee being served on the tray was a welcome invitation to sit and truly savour its aroma and daydream about how life might be like in a country like Lebanon. It also gave me a chance to have a good look at the menu and decide what I would order the next time I stopped in for a bite, which will not be too far in the future.