Sunday, June 1, 2008

Open Sesame


My brother and I had the most delicious lunch this afternoon in Belmont Shore. A few weeks ago I noticed that Steak-O-Rama, on the corner of Second Street and Nieto, had closed and the empty eatery was dressed with a sign saying “Open Sesame, Coming Soon!” As sad as we were to lose the “Best Steak Value in Town” (Okay, actually we were relieved. Would you trust the beef served at a place called “Steak-O-Rama”?) I was intrigued to learn that Open Sesame, a Lebanese restaurant that has been a Belmont Shore staple since 1999, was opening another dining room only a few doors down from their bustling original location.

Open Sesame #1 (5215 E. Second St.) always has a crowd of hungry patrons congregating near the hostess, waiting for tables. Last summer, I enjoyed a few hearty meals on the sidewalk patio not entirely realizing that the restaurant is actually two very well-decorated holes-in-the-wall under the same awning.

So today, Brendan and I decided to try the new Open Sesame on the corner formerly dominated by Steak-O-Rama (5201 E. Second St.). The hostess took our name and gave us a pager so we could wander down to Banana Republic while we waited for a table. We were only a block away when the pager called us back to be seated. To our surprise, a hostess from Open Sesame #1 led us down the street to a table at the original location. As we strolled, she told us that they are still working out the kinks but the two separate dining rooms form one restaurant, so guests can be seated at either location. The new venue is meant to accommodate larger parties.

Even though we didn’t get to try out the new dining room, it was fun to introduce Brendan to a new cuisine. We sat in the back corner of the busy restaurant, near a large Arabic-speaking party and among tapestry-adorned walls. Brendan noticed a glassy-blue Evil Eye hanging on the back wall, to banish trouble from the premises. The ambiance was a welcome departure for one like me with the travel bug and no plans to go anywhere soon.

The food was delicious. I ordered “Ali’s Favorite Plate” under the combinations, which came with slightly pink and perfectly tender sirloin steak over basmati rice and roasted tomato and onion. Hummus and tabouleh salad garnished my plate and added complex and exotic flavors from the mixed herbs and spices that the restaurant’s founder, Ali Kobeissi, boasts is his specialty. Kobeissi also promises super-fresh and nutritional ingredients, which add to the flavor and help dispense the guilt that comes with the glutinous inhalation of a large meal. We both left satisfactorily full and glad we tried something different.