Unique Places for Dining in Richmond Virginia

I have been to the Phoenician Restaurant in Richmond, Virginia several times. Having been to different countries on two continents and having tried different international cuisines, the Phoenician is definitely one of the most unique restaurants I have ever sampled anywhere.

At first, the location may seem a little dubious. But, as soon as you make it inside, beautiful fabrics, vibrant gold and burgundy colors, exotic Moroccan lanterns, and contemporary Mid-Eastern music make you forget all trepidation. However, during all of my visits, few other people were there. It begs the question if it’s because of the location?

After you are seated, the waiter will always bring pita chips, olives, and a yogurt/olive oil dip to start your meal. For drinks, customers can choose from regular or diet sodas, black hot tea, iced tea, mineral water mango juice, and guava juice. The juice, while sweet on its own, complements the flavors of the Lebanese cuisine perfectly. So does the mineral water, especially if you order some of the sweeter food selections.

The menu (at the time of November 11, 2011) has four salads, four sides, 23 starters, and ten entrees labeled “from the grill.” Lunch is served up until 3 pm and consists of seven sandwich choices. However, the staff seems flexible. If you miss the time by a few minutes, you can still order off the lunch menu. All sandwiches come with hummus and pita chips. The hummus is better than anything you can buy from even the fanciest deli, it is very smooth and has an almost creamy texture.

From the salads, individual taste experience is only for the “tabouli,” but it was heavenly, light, and with a sweet flair. Tabouli is made from tomatoes, diced onions, and crushed wheat, flavored with parsley and lemon juice, and seasoned with a blend of spices. Of course it has olive oil as well. What makes it different, in addition to the special seasoning, is that the onions and tomatoes are very finely chopped, making it appealing for those who like a more refined salad.

From the starters menu, personal taste experiences include the cucumber yogurt salad, stuffed grape leaves with meat, and cheese rolls “rekakat.” The refreshing cucumber yogurt salad is perfect for a hot, humid summer day. The cheese rolls consist of crispy fried Phyllo dough stuffed with cheese, perfect for even picky children, especially if they like mozzarella sticks. Of course comparing rekakat with mozzarella sticks is an abomination, these cheese rolls are much better—and probably healthier.

The grape leaves are stuffed with rice and seasoned ground beef and come with a yogurt sauce on the side. Eating them with the yogurt is a must as it perfectly complements the salty flavor. Grape leaves also come in a vegetarian version.

Another favorite is the chicken shawarma which is available as an entrée and as a sandwich. The secret of the chicken seems to be in the marinade. As an entrée, it is served with rice pilaf, green beans, and tahini sauce.

Desserts include chocolate cake, tiramisu, cheesecake, and different types of baklava. One baklava version has pistachios and even those who do not like nuts will enjoy this flaky, crunchy, sweet delicacy.

The Phoenician also offers takeout. Despite its uniqueness, or perhaps because of it, it is really a suitable restaurant for all occasions, from romantic dinners to birthday celebrations to family outings. Even those with picky children and meat-loving husbands will find it to their liking. Meat lovers are sure to enjoy the lamb dishes.

For children, if all fails, they do have French fries. However, it would be a shame to bypass the ethnic delicacies. The dishes are just foreign enough to open your taste buds to new experiences, but not so outlandish as to be unappealing to picky eaters. Everything is served to look very appetizing and the vegetables aren’t coarse or salty, which just might sneak them past finicky children’s taste buds.

Stop by if you can and show your support for something different. Richmond is not usually a kind environment to unique experiences and many exceptional places have had to shut down in the past. It would be a shame to lose the Phoenician. The contact and location information for the restaurant is:

The Phoenician Restaurant

4401 West Broad Street

Richmond, VA 23230

(804) 359-5590

www.thephoenicianrestaurant.com