With all that is going on in the world how refreshing it is to see a kosher butcher, Buddhist center and Egyptian restaurant all within a few steps from each other in the Millburn Mall in Vauxhall. We were there to feed our bellies, not our spirits, and had dinner at Porto Falafel, a new restaurant offering Egyptian/Middle Eastern cuisine.
This storefront establishment has about 30 seats, wooden floors, colorful tablecloths covered with glass, paper napkins and two flat-screened TV’s. Egyptian music and pictures depicting different areas of Egypt, which looked like they were taken by a travel agency, decorate the walls and help to set the mood.
The menu has many of the dishes we have found in Turkish, Lebanese and Israeli restaurants such as hummus, baba ghanoush, labneh, falafel, shakshuka, lentil soup and shish kebabs. Expect large portions and low prices. Halal meat is used.
We were impressed with our starters. Cauliflower was cooked until very soft in a tasty tomato sauce with onions and green peppers and was easily scooped onto warm flat pita bread. Molokheyah, a soup, was described on the menu as “ground green-leaf soup cooked with roasted garlic, coriander, cubed chicken cooked in fresh chicken broth.” This soup was refreshingly different and it reminded us of a Spanish garlic soup with spinach and pieces of chicken.
Entrees were not as successful. A smoky tasting lamb tajin, which contained carrots and potatoes in a spicy tomato-based sauce was accompanied by rice and an Arabic salad of finely diced tomatoes, red onions and cucumbers. The lamb was tough and we had to saw it with a knife. We thought that Koshari, which was listed as “Egypt’s Staple Street Food,” would be a good accompaniment to the lamb tajin but it was basically a stomach filler with little flavor except for the spicy dressing that added some zip to the dish. It contained rice, elbow macaroni, chickpeas and lentils topped with a bit of tomato sauce and a field of fried onions. If you go with a large crowd it would be an interesting side dish to share but we could not recommend it as an entrée. Shredded phyllo dough filled with cream, called kunafa, was a sweet ending to our dinner. The bill was $55 with tax and tip.
PSST—There is a jazz group on Friday’s nights, and on Saturday a belly dancer.
2933 Vauxhall Road
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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