From baba ganoush to spiced lamb, Damascus Gate can keep all the family happy
Restaurant Title: Damascus Gate
Proprietor: Basil Ziadeh
Address: 10 Upper Camden St, Dublin 2
Phone: 01-475 2000
Cuisine: Lebanese and Syrian
Spinach samosas are made with skin-soft pastry envelopes, not like other samosas that explode in pastry shrapnel on first bite exposing a chamber of air with a carpet of wilted spinach. Here the folded spinach has a slight pickled tang, which works brilliantly.
Then there are the kibbeh, which are small rugby ball-shaped portions of minced lamb coated with crisp fried bulgar wheat crumbs, a little like a scotch egg. Drizzled in garlic yoghurt they are sweetly spicy and the smallest fella loves them.
The chicken mansaf dajaj comes as a leg and thigh joint of soft meat that falls away from the bone and tastes like it’s been poached. There is saffron rice and a great sprinkling of toasted nuts, cashews, brazils and peanuts. In a bowl there’s a sunny yellow portion of warm yoghurt soup which sings with the rice.
The hummus starter that the eldest boy gets is a great combination of crunchy, fried minced lamb (like the best crunchy outside bits of a burger) sprinkled over a smooth chickpea paste with more of those toasted nuts.
The only slight disappointment is my lamb dish, which is a little chewy and under-spiced and doesn’t work in the way that the other dishes do.
Desserts are delightful. The house-made baklava are sweet and nutty, rather than sickly syrupy, with hits of pistachio and rosewater. A slice of knafeh is gorgeous, almost savoury, with an after-sweetness when the syrup-soaked wheat gives up its flavour. It’s made from a thin layer of unsalted cream cheese topped with a wheat vermicelli (very like Shredded Wheat) turned pink with rosewater and syrup. Two of the chefs are from the city of Nablus, the home of this dessert, we’re told.
Unprompted, the youngest asks if we can come here every night as we try to finish everything. We’re adding it to our short list of family venues, but don’t let that put you off. Damascus Gate is a great addition to Camden Street, not least because it proves my point, food is food and here it’s delicious.
Dinner for five with tap water and soft drinks came to €78.85.
THE VERDICT: The €10.90 mezze plate is my idea of a lovely meal