Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kibbe And Shwarma And French Fries, Oh My!

I am completely convinced that if you want really good French Fries, the kind that are golden brown on the outside and creamy and hot on the inside, you need to find yourself a place with a Mediterranean cook. I'm not saying that you can't find excellent French Fries elsewhere, but anecdotal evidence from my epicurean travels tell me that some of the best fries I've ever had have been Greek and Lebanese.

When I discovered Continental Cuisine several years ago, I wasn't sure what to expect. While out on a lunch break looking for something unique, I stumbled across the storefront directly across the street from Summit Mall in Fairlawn, Ohio. The restaurant billed itself as Mediterranean, but one look at the menu convinced me that there were other influences as well.

Here are two shots of the outside of the restaurant:

Once inside the main door, there was a small storefront area that sold Mediterranean items that aren't common in most grocery stores. While I didn't have time to peruse the bottles, cans, and jars today, I certainly have in the past and found some interesting items that I purchased for home use. The dining room was down a hallway to the left and every time I've been, it's always been self-seating. Once I sat down, my server brought me a menu to look over.

Here were several shots of the menu. Notice the heavy Greek and Italian influences on the choices:

Today I decided to give the “Kibbe Ball” appetizer a try. At only $1.99, it seemed like an economical way to give these international flavors a taste. I asked whether the kibbe was made from the traditional meat, lamb. My server indicated that they were actually made from beef. After a few minutes, my appetizer came out of the kitchen along with a basket of fresh pita bread:

Here was a shot of my kibbe ball:

And a shot of the interior:

First, let me say something about the pita bread. So often, even in Greek and Mediterranean restaurants, the pita bread is unforgivably stale. It's not that I expect these restaurants to make their own pita bread on-premises, however, I have to question how hard is it to serve pita bread that is soft and has that wonderful chew to it? Fortunately, Continental Cuisine's pita bread had none of those problems as it was fresh and wonderful. They either go through a lot of it so that their inventory is always fresh, or they get it from someplace local right after it is made. In fact, I had to make sure I didn't fill up on pita bread before the rest of my dinner arrived.

The kibbe ball was quite good, too. As my server sat it down in front of me, the slightest aroma of cinnamon wafted up from the plate. When I asked my server if there was cinnamon in the dish, she replied that she wasn't entirely sure, but cinnamon was a spice commonly used in many of the dishes. The kibbe ball was fried nicely and wasn't greasy in the least. While very good on its own, dipped in a bit of the slightly thinned yogurt was a nice way to balance the fattiness of the ground beef with the tanginess of the yogurt. Had I not ordered a sandwich wrap and French Fries, I probably could've eaten at least three or four more of these.

At just about the same time that I finished up my appetizer, my wrap and French Fries arrived at the table. Here was a shot of my chicken shwarma wrap:

And a close-up of the filling:

This was a wonderful mix of grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, parsley, pickles, and a garlic yogurt tahini sauce. The wrap itself was nicely grilled and crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the interior. The nice thing about getting a sandwich wrapped this way was that as you get close to the foil, you simply peel off a layer, discard it, and proceed with the eating. The tahini sauce added a nice moistness to the wrap without making it too wet. I definitely recommend this sandwich.

Finally, the French Fries:

All of the sandwiches are a la carte; however, you can add this entire plate of French Fries for only $1.50 more. As you can see from the picture above, you get A LOT of fries for you $1.50. This was easily enough food for two people, maybe even three. Every time I have had the French Fries from Continental Cuisine, they have always been excellent. Clearly these are not fresh cut fries, but they were fried to what I consider to be perfection: Crispy and golden on the outside, creamy and steamy on the inside.

I'm not sure when the busy times are, since every time I've gone for lunch or dinner, there have been perhaps three or four tables with people sitting at them. Considering that the restaurant and shop have been around for quite a bit of time, they are obviously making enough money to stay open. I would heartily suggest that if you are in the mood for Mediterranean fare or just some really excellent French Fries to check out Continental Cuisine. There should something on the menu that will just hit the spot.

Continental Cuisine on Urbanspoon  Continental Cuisine on Restaurantica


MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

All right, something in my neck of the woods!

I'm part of why the dining room is so empty; they started out as a pick up/delivery only business, and that's how I still use them, mostly.

I love that I can order a pizza for the kids, and a tabbouleh salad, shwarma, stuffed grape leaves, and some kebabs for us grownups.

And, oh, the tabbouleh. It is so good. Mmmm. Now I know where I'm going for lunch tomorrow.

Mike V

Tino said...

@MikeV: I've not yet tried the tabbouleh, but I have had the hummos and it's very good. Sadly, unless I am going with others, the appetizer portion is enough for an entire meal, so I don't normally order it. It's good to know that their take-out business is what keeps the doors open, because I have never once even seen the dining room half-full.

BONNIE K said...

I love this kind of food and I just had my first kibbe and loved it. This all looked wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I miss their food. I ate lunch there often about 10 years ago when I worked on that side of town.

You are in my area a lot. Have you tried Sahara Grill at Belden Village (next to Olive Garden)?

They have baked Kibbeh squares or fried Kibbeh balls. On their Wednesday and Sunday buffet, they also have Kibbeh Naya (raw). I won't touch the Naya but those braver than me tell me it's awesome.

Judy in Green

PS: you are right about the cinnamon. Usually Kibbeh is spiced with both allspice and cinnamon - more of the former than the later.

bob said...

I love Continental cuisine food. It is fresh and healthy for you. I love the fatoush salad and the chicken kabob. Also try the "puffy Bread", a fresh hot from the oven pita bread. My kids love to go there. They order pizza all the time because they they think it is the best pizza. I recommend this place because the food is fresh and good quality.

Anonymous said...

Tom - if you go back, try their Continental Pizza. It is probably the best "non-Italian style" pizza I've ever had. Crunchy crust, salty and light with olives and feta cheese. Delish!

Tino said...

I have been back many, MANY times and have pretty much tried everything off of the menu at some point by now. You are right, the pizzas are quite good. Some of the best in the area, I think.

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