Day long they poor the wine, sweet and abundant, fit for rulers.
— from an ancient Lebanese poem.
Sitti, Lebanese for grandmother and of course the center of any good kitchen, is my new jam. Location, menu, atmosphere, bar—all primo. Those all should be indicators for a lasting downtown restaurant.
Location: downtown | Wilmington at Hargett | Raleigh developer Greg Hatem’s corner | across from Raleigh Times Bar. This is a really spectacular location in the heart of downtown and near some of my favorite bars. Talk about an ideal place for a get-together with friends before hitting the town, or a casual but thoughtful dinner date.
Menu: hot and cold tasting plates or mezze | soups & salads | kabobs, stews, dumplings | flatbreads. The menu is affordable and sharing-friendly. Flatbread comes to the table with a dip of olive oil and spices that’s pretty irresistible. Oh, and there are desserts, but I didn’t even make it there. I enjoyed two small plates— the Warak Anab (stuffed grape leaves—these were vegetarian) and Beef Shawarma (marinated beef served with mini pitas and tahini). The warak anab had great acidic flavor. The beef was…spicy carne! Mmmm tahini: my new favorite condiment.
Other foods ordered at my table included hommos (hummus!), Graides (sauteed shrimp with spices and herbs), goat cheese and orange salad, Lamb Kabob and Kafta Kabob. All looked top-notch. Because the menu includes so many small plates, I imagine I’ll be able to work my way through the menu pretty quickly on return trips.
Atmosphere: Tin ceiling | long communal table in the center of the room | quiet music | black and white family photographs and maps of Lebanon | decorative hookahs. Sitti scores high marks again. The dining room is very open, without many private niches, but the lighting, ambiance and food are pretty seductive. Again, read: date place! Large windows wrap around the restaurant, allowing you to glance out onto the street at passersby or this: Barack Obama!
Bar: I’m in love with that pieace of…furniture…carpentry? Art deco and fabulous from 1930s Chicago. Go check it out. I wish I had taken a picture…When the weather’s nice, the patio out back should be nice for a drink, though it seems the neighboring building extends between Sitti and Landmark. Once the restaurant becomes established, I bet we’ll be seeing a late night bar remain open past dining hours.