Normally, a restaurant with a dozen plaster chicken replicas dangling from the ceiling probably wouldn’t have us planning our next visit. A simple hanging pendant lamp would have sufficed. But, when combined with an otherwise-sleek dining room, creative cocktails, and tasty (and primarily vegan) Middle Eastern mezze, the end result is Mamnoon. And while the food here isn’t as revelatory as it once was, dinner here is a solid bet for many different situations.
Mamnoon’s concept is simple: upscale Middle Eastern food. And for plenty of dishes, they succeed. Mezze are a reliable way to fill the table, from smoky baba ghanoush to thick labneh slick with pools of minted oil. Arnabeit makli is also a winner, proving that a hot deep-fryer and drizzle of tahini can The Princess Diaries a dull head of cauliflower. Yes, we used The Princess Diaries as a verb.
However, some dishes have received recent revamps that miss the mark. The shish taouk, which used to be a vibrant, beautiful, lemon-squeezed piece of charred chicken breast kabob, is now tougher thigh, rubbed in spices that compete with each other and a bitter grapefruit salad that doesn’t quite complement the bird. The mujadara was our favorite thing on the menu, and it has since become our least due to gummy rice and raw squash. The whole thing feels like when a sitcom keeps a character but replaces the actor—the same show is playing, but everyone notices a bit of glimmer lost.
Providing you order something that Mamnoon excels at (follow the food rundown below for guidance), you’ll find that it’s a Swiss Army knife of a restaurant, and comes in handy for birthday dinners, a meal with coworkers, or date night. It’s fun to share a handful of pita-swiped dips and a couple of grilled meats, but the price does add up fast, which is all the more disappointing given their slight overall decline.
There is a silver lining: their adjoining takeout window. Mamnoon’s lineup of to-go dishes is excellent, and features greats that you won’t find in the dining room. We’re talking about things like falafel that crunches phenomenally, shawarma-stuffed pita wraps, and spicy fries with za’atar mayo. That’s the Mamnoon we know and love, and the Mamnoon that we’d enthusiastically send you to.
Every meal at Mamnoon should start with this mezze sampler. In one order, alongside some homemade wheat pita, you get hummus, a nutty muhammara paste made with breadcrumbs and pomegranate molasses, baba ghanoush, and labneh topped with anything from mint oil to caramelized onion. We’re fans of all four spreads.
If you think cauliflower is boring, the joke’s on you. While Mamnoon’s preparation has since changed from “freaking phenomenal” to “pretty swell,” this is still some solid cauliflower: dry-fried florets, raw pickled cauliflower bits soaked in turmeric, a goathorn pepper confit, and tarrator. The florets themselves are excellent, but beware of a bite involving every element, as the toppings are saltier than a silver medalist.
This grilled chicken thigh kebab marinated in yogurt comes served with tamarind glaze, preserved root vegetables, brown butter toum, grapefruit, and herbs. The meat is moist, flavorful, and tasty. If you’re looking to eat something lighter for dinner because you had six pitas, you’ll have to be OK with the price tag of $28. You’ll also have to be OK with the fact that the sides are good-not-great, and feel like an afterthought.
Mujadara Stuffed Delicata Squash
What used to be the best thing here is now, unfortunately, the worst. The presentation of this lentil-and-rice-filled roasted delicata squash is really quite lovely. But much like the film adaptation of Cats, there are some obvious flaws preventing what should have been enjoyable. The rice is bland, overcooked to the point of gumminess, and it’s all inside a squash that is almost raw. Skip this dish.