This week, Besha Rodell reviews Farida, the modern Middle Eastern restaurant by prolific restaurateur George Abou-Daoud. The Weekly critic sets the tone of the review by calling Abou-Daoud the “unsung hero of the current Middle Eastern food trend sweeping the city.” Rather than lumping the menu under an Israeli umbrella, Farida “celebrate[s] the specific ancestry of each dish,” all while remaining “fun above all else.”
That translates into some tasty vegetarian dishes:
Perhaps its most creative dish was the tahini toast, a sweet/savory mashup that reminded me of the insane after-school snacks I used to make as a teenager, with everything in the fridge smeared on toasted bread. A thin layer of tahini is drizzled with date jus (the tahini entry on the bottom of the menu says, "Tahini is to sesame seeds what peanut butter is to peanuts"; I think this sesame/date combo is in some ways a wink at the PB&J), then topped with spicy cucumber and riced cauliflower. It's a lot of flavors yet somehow harmonious and delicious. [LAW]
Sadly, Farida flounders with its overly salted meaty offerings:
Farida's six-hour spicy lamb belly, which comes in a beautifully alluring juicy heap over lebneh, was so salty it burned — so salty that my companions and I were thirsty hours later, so salty I swear I could feel the numbing effect on my tongue the next day. [LAW]
B. Rod also questions the management structure of the restaurant, with Daoud serving as both the restaurateur and chef:
In smaller, less micro-managed environments, it's hard to get members of a kitchen staff to care deeply about a vision that's not their own. I did get the sense during my meals at Farida that it was a relaxed, fun place to work, possibly to a fault. [LAW]
Ultimately, it’s an encouraging review for the restaurant, with the critic explaining that “we need people like Abou-Daoud to remind us of the origins of this food, to care as much as he does, to keep pointing out the complexity of the region.” Farida scores two stars.