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Sunday
Jan102010

Tabouli Grill: Stamford's New Mediterranean Contender 

Until a few months ago, Stamford was a two falafel town, Myrna’s Authentic and Layla’s Falafel. That’s why I was thrilled this fall when I began to hear rumblings of a new contender for the Stamford, Connecticut Middle Eastern heavyweight title.  Tabouli Grill had entered the ring -- with gloves on. 

“Oh, you’ve got to try it,” cooed one of my Stamford girls.  “It’s so fresh,” declared another, “I’m there once a week” and the holy grail of suburban dining, they deliver too!  

Israelli NachosThough the restaurant is a newbie, Judy Roll, the owner, is no food industry newcomer.  She is CIA trained, world traveled and has spent 25 years honing her culinary skills.  She had an LA stint, including a pastry chef gig at Spago.  And closer to home Stamford locals fell in love with her at the Sweet On You Bakery & Café.  “After years of eating, experimenting and dreaming” about her ideal restaurant Tabouli Grill opened its doors in a busy strip mall near the intersection of High Ridge and Long Ridge roads.  

Walking into the sparsely decorated but warm space, the first thing I notice is the crowd.  On a Tuesday at 12:30 this place is filled to capacity.  It’s not just the lunching ladies of Stamford, there are business men, college kids, a young mom and her tot and of course me and my CTBites posse.  We came en masse to so we could order big and we did not disappoint!

As we were seated, a nosh of sweet pickle slices and salty pickled cabbage were set out along with a thimble of spicy cilantro jalapeno dip.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t any bread for the dip, but a taste on the fork gave me something to look forward to a bit later.

A great feature of Tabouli Grill’s traditional Mediterranean menu is the definitions and descriptions on the backside.  After a quick discussion, the ordering begins… 

Round one: Hummus, Baba Ganoush and Tabouli served with truly exceptional pita bread.  So exceptional, in fact, that we had to inquire.  The pita is not house made, but brought in from Israel, according to our server, baked off somewhere in Brooklyn and delivered to the restaurant fresh daily.  It’s not a flimsy wafer of pita; it’s thick, full of leavened holes and the perfect accompaniment to the meze course.  It’s great alone, but even better slathered in the succulent house olive oil or toasted and toting a sample of the aforementioned dips.

Tabouli Grill’s hummus is a bit of a lightweight.  The texture is great, creamy and light, but it’s lacking in depth of flavor.  A little garlic, lemon and salt would go a long way in carrying this chickpea blend to the big league.  The tabouli, on the other hand, is a direct hit.  It has tremendous flavor. Most tabouli I’ve encountered is drier, as a rice might be prepared, and until now I’ve found it just right.  But this tabouli is very moist, almost wet, with lemon juice and olive oil and it brings a whole new dimension to this traditional grain. Tons of fresh parsley, bulgur and just the right amount of seasoning really delight the palate.  A house speciality, and one that came highly recommended, is the vegetarian chopped liver.  Garnished with crispy caramelized onions and served with perfectly seasoned toasted pita chips, we are not wooed by the first bite.  Oddly enough, though, a few more bites and we find we can't eat just one. The piece de resistance of the appetizers is most definitely the Israeli “nachos” (seen above).  The baked pita chips are covered generously with tomato, cucumber, feta, red onion, black olive and lebneh, a traditional garlicky yogurt dip.  It’s a great play on nachos and you don’t feel like you’ve entered a new weight class just for eating them.

Round Two: Israeli Salad, Israel’s answer to Italian bread salad.  It’s not easy to find ripe tomatoes in Stamford in December and Tabouli Grill clearly did not.  Still, this hearty chopped blend of cucumbers, red onion, cabbage and parsley is full of flavor and large enough to share before my group re-enters the ring for Round Three.

Ding.  Out come falafel, kofta, a crispy fish pita and a sabiach pita sandwich, which according to the menu is “all the rage in Israeli street food”.  Our table neighbors are both repulsed and in awe at the shear quantity of food we intend to consume.  Not one to throw in the towel, I systematically work my way through each dish.  The falafel is not inspired, it could use a bit more yogurt and cucumber dressing, but others at the table were impressed with the texture of the fritters and enjoyed their understated seasoning.  

The kofta, a spicy ground beef patty, livened up with za’tar is tasty, and the fried fish pita is very well seasoned.  The best sandwich by far however, is the sabiach.  Perfectly grilled eggplant, hummus, Israeli salad, tahini and a hard-boiled egg are piled high in a pita pocket.  The flavor combination is perfectly balanced and our forks bob, weave and hover for one more mouthful before declaring the meal a success.

One would think that by now we’d be down for the count, but there’s no way to gracefully bow out before sampling the highly recommended desserts.  A peanut butter and jelly bar and carrot cake whoopie pie, while not regionally traditional, are quite divine.  And then there is the baklava.  Very generously filled with walnuts and honey this rich sweet pastry is a TKO.  A few girls are loosening their belts at this point, but I leave feeling like a true heavyweight champ.  Lucky for Stamford, Tabouli Grill is a real contender.

Tabouli Grill 59 High Ridge Road, Stamford. 203.504.8888

Tabouli Grill on Urbanspoon

 

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    Tabouli Grill: Stamford's New Mediterranean Contender  - CT Bites - Restaurants, Recipes, Food, Fairfield County, CT

Reader Comments (16)

Wow !!!!!!!


Since when we Grill Tabouli? Although it looks like it has been grilled it was awful and I refused to eat it.
The Hummus is a work of armatures, SORRY Folks with all my respect to Marcy, I have no idea what she knows about that food or that part of the world, Please educate your self before you brag marcy

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlebanese chef

Amazed to read your review of Mediterranean food Marcy. As the previous commenter had stated, you are way off in your assessment. Walked in once in the Tabbouleh Grill for lunch, after a brief look at some of the dishes, especially the tabbouleh, I was more than discusted and walked right out. I think that they should change their name to a Hodge Podge Grill. Tabbouleh is a traditional Lebanese salad, and the key point is salad here. Their tabbouleh was full of Bulgar and the parsley is chopped with the stems. Someone need to take a course on how to prepare tabbouleh.
As a Lebanese born American, I have traveled the world many times over, and always made a point to visit Mediterranean restaurants. As far as I am concerned, the best authentic, classy and delicious menu in the tri-state area is and has been Myrna's.
Again, with all do respect Marcy, you might want to distinguish between authentic and second hand types of Mediterranean cuisines that is being prepared by trained chefs and has thousands of satisfied customer before writing about a subject that I think you know very little about.

Bob

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob

In response to Bob and Lebanese Chef, and really as a comment to anyone reading my posts:
My reviews are based on my personal tastes.
I appreciate that folks may feel differently about the meals I write up and can only say that I stand by my comments as far as my enjoyment of the meal at Tabouli Grill. That said, I have decided slightly edit my opening comments pending further exploration.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

The first two entries look surprisingly like bitter responses to Tabouli Grill's success. The food and crowds at Tabouli Grill speak for themselves.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBitter?

Last week we had diner at Tabouli's Grill, the eight of us.(Some of us are Mediterranean and some Americans).

We ordered all different dishes, different salads, so we can try them all. Food was excellent

Then we ordered some deserts. The cookies were amazing. Freshly baked right on premises. Actually, all the food was fresh and really good.

It's great to have such a restaurant when the prices are also very reasonable.

-Ella

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElla

Yeah...posters 1&2 seem a tad bitter. Having traveled through and tasted Middle Eastern food at the source, I can confirm that TG has captured a lot of the flavors and variations on these dishes that exist in the area. The hummus, salad, pita, were all exceptional. Tabbouleh salad was great. A few things definitely had a Fairfield county twist and a little disappointing if looking for authentic - the type of meat in the lamb kabob doesn't quite hit the mark for authenticity, but was tasty nontheless. The biggest disappointment was the sabich - yes, that is how it should be pronounced and spelled, not sabiach. (Proof here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CE0WoINuPA) There should be amba - a mango relish in there. There should be potato slices. There should be Israeli salad. There should be charif - spicy sauce. Hummus and tchina. And of course the eggplant. Sabich is a DELICIOUS street food and TG seriously missed the mark...

January 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwoah...

The sabich (it is a phonetical spelling after all) has eggplant, egg, hummus, tahini, chopped Israeli salad and they give you z'hug which I found to be a very tasty alternative to charif or harissa (again a widely varied condiment with many names in the Middle East) This place is in Fairfiled County after all, not Israel. I'm so glad they are here.

January 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAri

I tried Tabouli Grill a few months ago and have already been back several times. I've always liked Mediterranean food, and preferred Layla's to Myrna's. But I definitely prefer Tabouli Grill over both the others. For me, it's about the pita--so soft and fresh. At Layla's, food comes in a wrap, and at Myrna's, they have a thin commercial tasting pita. The spicy cilantro sauce at Tabouli Grill is fabulous, I pour it on everything and always ask for more. The sabiach/sabich is delicious and is my favorite menu item. Maybe it's not exactly the way some people get it in the middle east, but it makes me feel warm and happy inside. The baklava is the best I've ever had, and I've even made my own on occasion. The salads are superb, huge and fresh with wonderful olives! Keep up the great work over there at TG -- I know they're doing welll, I had to wait the last time I was there for a table.

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfoodmom

I was very excited to see sabich on the menu. If the finished product was at all close to what a sabich was supposed to taste like I wouldn't have complained. ;) Maybe she's altering it to suit American taste buds.
Believe me, I appreciate having a good Middle Eastern restaurant in Fairfield. Everything else was delicious. The sabich, I'll save for my visits to Israel.

January 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwoah

I am heading to Israel, again, in the spring. I have my list of sabiah destinations and look forward to eating, deciphering and implementing your suggestions and comments ASAP. Be patient my dear customers......

January 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

That's awesome Judy! Ovad's Sabich is really good, but we actually did a taste test of a few places one day (we take our sabich VERY seriously) and found the best one to be in Tel Aviv on the corner of Dizengof and Frishman St. It's a small place, kind of looks like Seinfeld's "The Soup Nazi", but always a long line out the door. If you get a chance, you should try him!
(A key ingredient that adds to the flavor is the amba.)

Let us know when you're back. I'm looking forward to tasting the results!

February 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWoah

Oh - and if there's any way you can recreate El Babur's pita covered lamb kebab, or their stuffed lamb we'd be eternally grateful!
(El Babur is in Um el Fachem.)

February 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWoah

We now put amba into our Sabih and into our Shawarma (we have abeautiful new mega shawarma "rotisserie") I can not get enough of that sauce. It is indeed heavenly and makes a HUGE difference in flavor. I went on an self guided sabih/shawarma eating tour in NYC last week. The best sabih was at Taim (run by Israelis) and I have to say ours is every bit as good and as authentic as theirs. I think our shawarma is the best. We use boneless leg of lamb and marinate it for at least 48 hours. It's sublime!
Thanks Woah for the tips. Can't wait to go!
BTW. Tabouli Grill just won Best Ethnic Restaurant in the 2010 Best of Stamford Plus awards. Please vote for us under the "falafel", "middle eastern" and "new" dining and eating catergories in the www.fairfieldweekly.com awards.

March 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

That's great to hear Judy! We'll come by TG soon to check it out!

Congrats on the win. :)

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWoah

I LOVE Tabouli Grill. I found the food fresh, very tasty, generous portions (which I love as a hungry girl!) and reasonably priced. The ambiance is lovely as well. Keep it up and look forward to continuing to try new items. Loved the Mushroom Barley soup I had too!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhungry girl

IMy posse LOVES, LOVES, LOVES Tabouli GRill.

Tabouli Grill is hands down the best Middle Eastern Food outside of New York, but on a par with the best there.
I always bring home extra for at least another meal. Layla's and Myrna's is nowhere as fresh, flavorful, or as delicious.
I sometimes buy the baklava to bring as a dessert to friend's homes. It is the best around. Short of a trip to the Middle East, Tabouli Grill is the highest quality Middle Eastern food around.

December 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterspice girl

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