Mediterranean Palace a simple sub shop with warm, exotic flair @

April 16, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Staff Writer

Rarely do I get not one but two calls urging me to try a new restaurant. And I don't ever remember getting any calls about a sub shop.

Of course, the Mediterranean Palace isn't just a sub shop. But then it's not exactly a Mediterranean palace, either.

This deli and carryout has, to be blunt, zero atmosphere. Unless you like the sub shop look -- the plastic tablecloths and plastic flowers, the counter with the menu on a board in back, the refrigerator for soft drinks. On the plus side, it's clean and it's cheerful.

Or maybe it's just the presence of Mary Barrouk that makes it cheerful. My guess is that this warm, motherly woman -- who with her husband owns the Mediterranean Palace -- is the reason for the calls urging me to give it a try. Besides being an excellent Middle Eastern cook (she's from Jerusalem), she's good at making you feel welcome. She's glad you came, and she's glad to have the chance to introduce you to some of her specialties.

Such as the mujaddarah dinner, which, Mrs. Barrouk says, is particularly good for vegetarians. Lentils and rice are cooked together and decorated with thin, crisp threads of fried onion. What makes the dish so appealing is the intriguing seasonings: complex and not anything I could identify. A small salad of chopped lettuce, scallion, tomato and parsley comes on the side -- but if there was dressing I couldn't taste it.

Or try the chicken kebab platter with delicious pieces of white meat, marinated and slightly charred over a bed of seasoned rice, green pepper and onions.

The Middle Eastern selections are actually quite extensive -- obviously that's where Mrs. Barrouk's heart is, although she turns out her share of subs and french fries. The Mediterranean Palace even has fresh dough pizza, a few Greek and Italian specialties and some good old American platters like fried chicken with mashed potatoes. And everything on the menu, except for a couple of extravagant pizzas, costs less than $10.

The only non-Middle Eastern food we tried was the soup of the day, a wonderfully rich, slightly greasy chicken broth chock-full of chicken and vegetables. Even it, though, seemed pleasantly un-American, both because of the seasonings and the lemon-slice garnish. "We make it our way," Mrs. Barrouk said.

For those not familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine, the Mediterranean sampler offers a couple of tender grape leaves stuffed with rice, falafel, eggplant and chickpea dips, tahini sauce, a little salad and -- as a treat to us, Mrs. Barrouk said, because we were clearly experimenting -- fried kubbeh balls, made up of minced beef, crunchy wheat and intriguing spices. We also had a slice of spinach pie, made not like the Greek kind, with phyllo pastry, but with pie-crust dough.

Mrs. Barrouk urged us to save room for her dessert, konafa with cheese, which is served hot. It looks dreadful (like a square of bright orange bird nest), but it's appealing if you're in the mood for something very sweet. Less adventuresome types can stick to the baklava.

Mediterranean Palace

Where: 5926 York Road.

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 a.m.

Credit cards accepted: No.

Features: Middle Eastern food.

Non-smoking section? No.

Call: (410) 532-6677.

Prices: $1-$8.99

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