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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sultan Lebanese Cuisine & Bakery

The other day, I posted about the University of Rochester's Pizza Pi, which I didn't care much for, giving my cheese slice a D.
But U of R students who love pizza need not fear, because there are better alternatives near campus. A short distance away (an easy bike ride, or a long walk) you've got Cam's, Mr. Shoes, and Pontillo's. And on the other side of the river, don't neglect Menezes, a long-established pizzeria that delivers to the U of R.
But besides those pizza places, the Mt. Hope neighborhood has a lot of food options, sparked in part by the ongoing College Town project. One new entrant (which is not directly related to the new College Town construction but is along the Mt. Hope corridor) is Sultan, a Lebanese restaurant in Mt. Hope Plaza.
And though Sultan doesn't offer pizza, exactly, it does serve the pizza-like manakeesh, which is described on the menu as a "flat bread dough, topped with thyme, cheese, or ground meat." Sultan's manakeesh comes in six varieties, and with a couple of friends, I tried two of them recently.
My lahmajin manakeesh was topped with ground beef, onion, tomato, and "sumac spice." The beef predominated, and was generously applied. The onion and tomato were much less noticeable, but if you're looking for a beef topping, you can hardly complain that there was too much beef. The beef was clearly seasoned with some spice mixture, that sort of Middle Eastern spice that's not particularly hot, but very savory, with perhaps some cloves or allspice and other aromatic spices. The flatbread itself was crisp but chewy, and charred in spots underneath.
My companion's egg and sausage manakeesh was noticeably spicier, with a bit of peppery kick, probably from the sausage. Like my lahmajin, this manakeesh was meat-heavy, with crumbled sausage atop a bed of eggs and cheese. It was very tasty, but we both agreed that it was rather dry. It would have benefited greatly from a sauce of some kind, even if just a dipping sauce on the side. I made do with a bottle of hot sauce, which served well enough.
Sultan's other manakeeshes (if that's the correct plural form) are a za'atar with little more than spices and olive oil, a cheese manakeesh, a vegetarian with sweet peppers, onion, tomato and spices (that was my next choice) and a spinach manakeesh. They also offer shawarma, kabab and falafel pita wraps, and some appetizers, including hummus and tabouli. Oddly, french fries come as an ingredient in the chicken shawarma, but cannot be ordered a la carte. On my visit, they were also testing out some stuffed grape leaves, which I hope get added to the menu soon, as a I tried one and found it very good.
When I'm in the mood for pizza, I don't necessarily want flatbread pizza, and Sultan doesn't claim that this is pizza. But it's a close cousin, and it is good. And this is a restaurant I plan to go back to, both for the manakeesh and some of the other dishes. I'm not going to assign this a grade, because it's not really pizza in the conventional sense, but based on this visit I'd say that Sultan is a welcome addition to the Mt. Hope/University of Rochester neighborhood.
Sultan Lebanese Cuisine & Bakery, 1659 Mt. Hope Ave. (Mt. Hope Plaza)
Hours not available, but open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

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