912 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City ; 801-521-4572
This second Mazza location hits the mark with delicious Middle Eastern fare. Professional service. Interesting wine list.
Cuisine: Middle Eastern,
Hours: M-S, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; 5-10 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 8
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
Recommended Dishes: Lamb and rice dolaas, sweet kanafe.
December 19, 2007
New location adds space, style to an already successful recipe
By Lesli J. Neilson
If you're like me, it doesn't take much to be talked out of dining at Mazza on 15th and 15th. The thought of a guaranteed wait only to dine in cramped quarters overrode any cravings for delicious Middle Eastern food. Lucky for Mazza-lovers, owner Ali Sabbah found a solution: In July, he opened a much-needed -- and bigger -- second location on 9th and 9th.
The new restaurant is dramatic, particularly in the evenings. Copper accents abound -- ductwork, moldings lining the ceiling's edge and metal surrounding illuminated columns throughout the restaurant are all painted copper. Sabbah added other striking touches, including multicolored lanterns that cast shadows on the mosaic-tiled floor, a curio cabinet with mother-of-pearl
inlays and antique original Egyptian movie posters in the restrooms.
Another welcome attribute is despite the high ceiling and hard floors, noise isn't an issue. Though the place was full on two visits, my dining companions and I never had a difficult time hearing one another.
The menu offerings at both locations are identical and copious. Mezze -- small plates meant to be shared -- join salads, sandwiches, entrees and desserts. Sampler plates (three mezze, $8.99; four mezze, $10.99) are the way to go and three are must-haves: mujaddara, labneh and muhamara.
Earthy cumin and cardamom, along with other spices, give lentils and rice incredible depth of flavor in mujaddara ($4.99). Labneh ($4.99), a yogurt-cheese, is gorgeous in all its thick and tangy glory, and muhamara ($6.50; add $1 if on sampler plate), a burgundy purée of walnuts, pomegranate molasses, roasted red bell peppers and Middle Eastern spices, sings when scooped and eaten atop crisp chilled romaine hearts.
Other mezze could use tiny adjustments to shine.
Mealy, out-of-season tomatoes in the fattoosh ($5.99), for example, marred this usually refreshing mezze. A commingling of chopped romaine, cucumbers, parsley, green onions and pita chips tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, fattoosh is at its best in summertime.
Lamb and rice dolaas ($16.95) took the chill out of a recent frigid night. Reminiscent of fried rice, chunks of tender lamb are braised with whole spices including cloves, allspice and cinnamon. The rice is then cooked in the rich lamb broth. The lot is topped with fried almonds and pine nuts.
Other exceptional dishes are moist chicken morsels and eggplant ($15.95) baked in a sweetish tomato, walnut and pomegranate sauce, and a juicy ground lamb kafta kebab platter ($16.95), accented with onions, parsley and spices. Kebab platters come with one protein skewer (chicken, lamb, lamb kafta, beef or falafel), one mixed vegetable skewer, rice and a choice from four sides.
Baked kafta ($14.95) combines spice-laden ground organic beef with onions and parsley. Sliced potatoes are laid on top of the beef and the lot is baked in a tajen sauce -- part tahini sauce and part tomato-based sauce.
If a large entree doesn't suit you, go for a falafel sandwich ($5.99). Three fluffy small pucks are tucked into a warmed pita with tomatoes, onions, parsley, pickled turnips and tahini sauce. Pickled turnips may sound strange, but these zippy tubers are delectable.
Middle Eastern desserts are an acquired taste, given many of them include perfumy rose or orange-blossom water. Ma'mool ($2.50), a semolina cookie filled with date and rose water paste, and an apricot cream turnover ($3.99), orange-blossom water-scented custard in puff pastry, were dry.
Though I ate every last bite of kanafe ($3.99), a cream custard with shredded phyllo and rose water syrup on the side, it's better ordered warm. Baklava ($3) can often be cloyingly sweet; Mazza's was a perfect mix of phyllo, a touch of honey, walnuts and a sprinkling of pistachios.
Sabbah has built an exceptional beer and wine list that pairs well with his Middle Eastern food, including offerings from Lebanon, Morocco, Greece and Armenia, among others. And in another diner-friendly move, most of the wine selections are also available by the glass.
The issues I have with Mazza are minor. Both the new and original location fill a much-needed niche in Salt Lake City's dining scene. Sabbah and his well-trained staff exhibit their passion for the business -- whether it's Sabbah going from table to table to check on diners or one of the many professional servers replacing a glass of wine, no questions asked. These are the reasons the masses will continue to come to Mazza for great Middle Eastern fare.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.