BILL OF FARE
A meal for two at Mosaic might look like this:
Mushroom Soup: $6.99
Shish Tawook: $14.99
Falafel Sandwich: $5.99
Halawet Aljeben: $7.99
Turkish Coffees: $4.98
Total check: $81.81
Entering Mosaic on a busy Friday night, I felt transported to Damascus. Gorgeous décor, artwork depicting the scenery of the city, and rich red fabrics welcome guests.
A waterfall provides a relaxing backdrop in the dining room.
Upon being seated, we were given black and green olives, sweet beets boiled in lemon juice and garlic, radishes, green onions and pickles that are made in-house, along with a side of freshly made bread, served warm. The complimentary appetizers stem from a Syrian tradition that serves two purposes: they are keeping you busy while you wait, but they are also opening up your appetite, making you want to eat more.
That’s what Fadi Tarazi explained after my visit. He is co-owner of the restaurant, which opened last November in Cranston’s Rolfe Square.
The rest of the menu is full of Syrian tradition, consisting of the same types of foods that are served in Damascus, prepared in the traditional manner.
My husband is part Lebanese, and therefore, many of the foods were familiar from years of family dinners. Syrian and Lebanese cuisines are similar but not exactly the same, so we both wanted to try some more exotic dishes. As the menu is reasonably priced, we could try a variety of foods.
We have been known to drive for miles to get good, authentic Syrian pita bread, and Mosaic’s bread was that good, fresh and delicious. We started with the flatbread Manakish, which came with three varieties of flatbread. I liked sampling the different types and especially enjoyed the flavor of the zit and zaatar, but the bread with the hot peppers and cheese was definitely for those who like a spicier dish.
Here the Tabouli is prepared differently than the Lebanese recipe we were used to, with more parsley and less bulgar wheat. But it was still very tasty, and one portion was more than enough for the two of us to share.
There were several sandwiches from which to choose, a whole section of Kibbeh and a variety of meal platters. For those less daring, looking for a dish that may be more similar to that of American cuisine, there are several of them on the menu as well, such as a bowl of creamy mushroom soup or a garden salad, and a fried chicken sandwich.
Kibbeh is a traditional dish that is prepared in a variety of ways, Mosaic showcases several. The Kibbeh tradition stems from the days when poor Syrians wished to entertain special guests. In order to make the meat more special, people would mix it with wheat, and then grill it or bake it, or mix it with yogurt.
I chose a platter of Shish Tawook, described as chicken marinated in an exotic blend and chargrilled over mesquite, served with rice. With my first bite, I noticed how incredibly tender the chicken was. I don’t know if I’ve ever had chicken so tender. I later learned from Tarazi that all of the meat is prepared in accordance with Muslim law, a method called halal, a process that makes it tender.
My husband’s falafel sandwich was served with hummus on flatbread, and he requested that Tabouli also be added to his sandwich, along with the lettuce and tomato. The sandwich was huge, especially considering the price, and very fresh. The falafel was crisp and wasn’t greasy, and it stayed together well.
Alcohol is BYOB, and we saw several tables around us who brought wine to accompany their meals.
Dessert offered many choices, ranging from some we had never seen before to more familiar fare such as cheesecake.
There are also a variety of hot and cold drinks on the menu, including traditional cold drinks such as Tamarind, Liquorice and Vimto. There were many flavored teas to choose from, as well as both Turkish coffee and American coffee. Fruit salads and fruit juices were also available, as well as hookah and nuts for those looking for the traditional Syrian gathering and entertainment offerings.
There is a separate room with more comfortable seating available for entertainment and relaxation after eating, with many backgammon games available. Backgammon is a tradition in Syria, played as a source of entertainment among friends and family, and the available games are beautifully designed, showcasing mosaic artwork and fine detail.
We chose two traditional Syrian desserts: the Tamari, a homemade pita bread rolled and topped with a sweet sauce and sesame seeds, which also filled the inside, and the Halawet Aljeben, dumplings filled with cheese, topped with pistachio and glazed with honey, which was a bit more savory than sweet, yet tasty. We had hot Turkish coffee along with it, served in a beautiful traditional coffee server.
The day I had the Turkish coffee was the first time I’d ever had it. It was served in a very small cup and it’s much thicker than American coffee but I found it to be very comforting. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it because I had it black. Normally I am a cream and sugar person. I would definitely order it again.
We have already visited Mosaic again, this time for takeout when our Lebanese family was visiting, and they too, enjoyed a falafel sandwich and the stuffed grape leaves, which were reminiscent of their own family recipes and traditions.
Mosaic Restaurant, 91 Rolfe Square, Cranston (401) 808-6512, mosaicrestaurantri.com. Parking lot and on-street parking, enter from the parking lot. Open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Alcoholic drinks are BYOB.