Thursday, February 20, 2014

Levante's Food Review

Doner Sandwich (with French Fries)

A Chill in the Air

There's nothing worse than cold food... especially when you're sitting just a few feet away from an impressive-looking, giant brick oven. Sadly, such is the case at once-grander (definitely better) Levante's at Dupont Circle. It's been just over a year since my last visit, but standards have slipped at the Turkish eatery... so far in fact, that even their famous Sunday brunch can't help mask my disappointment.

Looking back, brunch may have been a better idea (remind me to go) but today was lunch with my dad and brother... our monthly get-together. Turkish/Mediterranean food is a no-brainer when your brother is a vegan (cringe) and I've enjoyed past visits here immensely. Normally, I eat outside (great patio) but it's winter; so we went inside Levante's spacious, vibrant space. Lots of blue & white, which screams Greece, as opposed to Turkish red. Plenty of tables (most filled) with white tablecloths, covered with paper. Nice atmosphere, but loud (seems like everyone was talking at once.)

Service was kind but slow. No bread to start (although we got some later with Hommos) and we received our appetizer a good five minutes after the table next to us (which sat down, five minutes after our arrival) got theirs. Not good. We ordered two Cokes (one Diet, mine... which was flat as a board) and a Hommos plate ($6.50.) The Hommos had a nice bite to it, even though it didn't have much paprika sprinkled on top. The flat bread (two big pieces, but there was three of us) was out-of-this-world good. Nice & thick, it sopped up hommos like a thirsty sponge. I'd actually stop by every night on the way home, to pick up a few pieces (as the French do with baguettes.) Really, really good.


We ordered three sandwiches, Adana (grilled ground lamb, topped with Ezme Salad, $8.25) for Dad, Falafel ($7.95) for Brian, and a Doner (thinly cut beef and lamb roasted with Levante's special blend of spices, $8.25) for yours truly. Brian & I chose the same flat bread provided with our Hommos; and Tony selected pita bread for his.

We had a long wait for our sandwiches too... very long (15+ minutes) which is sorta inexcusable for weekday lunch. The consensus was all three sandwiches were cold. Brian's was the worst... he barely finished two bites. Worse yet, his falafel was burned almost beyond recognition: Have you ever tasted a burnt falafel ball? It ain't good. Dad eats anything; but even he mentioned that his was cold, and blah.

Flat Bread... Simply amazing

I seemed to get the best of the three sandwiches, although both the bread & fillings were cold. Levante's flat bread is so good, it tends to dominate the flavor profile... which wasn't helped much by zest-less meat. Only one slice each of tomato and cucumber. The latter provided a wonderful crunch, together with a most chewy bread. Unfortunately, without a spicy meat... the sandwich went nowhere. What a pity: It looked great, especially tenderly wrapped in wax paper... giving it a sandwich shop feel.

Each sandwich comes with your choice of french fries or Shepherd Salad. We chose fries in unison, but mine were hardly worth mentioning. They're the same kind you get at any coffee shop or deli: They could should be much better.

Our server was quiet, but pleasant. She didn't engage us at all; and didn't blink an eye when she took away my brother's almost full plate. That surprised me... so much so, that after paying the check (I asked for it early, since it took so long to get our food) I told her to express our collective disappointment to the chef (terrible falafel, cold sandwiches, delays.) Her response? A soft-spoken, "Oh." I clearly wasn't fishing for a discount (bill was already paid) but she could have at least apologized, or promised to tell someone. I'll give you 5-1 odds she didn't tell Chef anything. A good restaurant wants to know when a customer is dissatisfied (even if it's just one component of the meal.) In our case, it was several; and I'll be sure to send a link to this review their way. I wonder if they'll reply? I'll be sure to let you know.

Meanwhile, I can only hope this was an aberration‎, and not a new way of doing business. A return visit is definitely in order. Perhaps Sunday brunch to the rescue?

Follow-up: 12 March. It's been two and a half weeks since I sent Levante's an e-mail, yet no reply. Don't hold your breath for a brunch review.