Connecticut Magazine shares a unique Middle Eastern find in Bethel, Lebanese Market & Cuisine.
Restaurants have so overused the word “fresh” when describing their ingredients that it has been stripped of most of its meaning. But when chef Hassan Bou Hodiv of Lebanese Cuisine in Bethel says he only uses “fresh” ingredients, he means it. Like, really means it.
The shelf life on the restaurant’s tabbouleh: 30 minutes.
“After a half-hour, it’s not good for a customer,” he says.
This is hard to believe, but take a bite of this tabbouleh filled with bright green parsley and mint, accented by finely chopped onions and tomato coated in olive oil and lemon juice, taste the way the flavor of each ingredient pops, crisp and clean, and your doubts will evaporate.
The tabbouleh is the best I’ve had and the other Middle Eastern cuisine offered at the restaurant — including addictive falafel sandwiches and shawarma — is as good as, and arguably better than, any you can get in New York City. Though it has little online presence, an unassuming location on Stony Hill Road in Bethel, and a name that lacks flair, Lebanese Cuisine is an elite restaurant.
It was opened five years ago by Sam Baddour. A few years ago, Baddour brought Hodiv onboard as chef and partner and says he told him, “It’s your restaurant. Do whatever you want.”
Hodiv transformed the spot, drawing on the culinary traditions taught to him as a child in Lebanon. “My grandmother, always she cooked. I helped her,” he says. He moved to the U.S. in 2004, and prior to his work at Lebanese Cuisine he ran Falafel House in West Haven.
He says the type of authentic Lebanese cuisine he offers can’t even be found at restaurants in Lebanon. “New chefs don’t have these recipes; only the old women cook like this.”
Hodiv matches these traditional recipes with a passion for quality ingredients. He grows vegetables in a garden in the back of the restaurant, and says that when he shops for supplies, “I don’t care about price. I go looking for good quality.”
23 Stony Hill Road, Bethel
Hours: Daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m.