Think of them as Middle Eastern comfort foods, the hummus, falafel, gyros and kebabs most of us reflexively zero in on whenever we visit a Middle Eastern restaurant.
There’s nothing wrong with them, of course, and Mouhamad Hamey, co-owner of Laziza Hookah Lounge & Restaurant, does, indeed offer them on the menu of his restaurant, which opened in November at 9460 S. Eastern Ave.
"But at the same time," Hamey says, "we’re trying to present another side and make it a little more authentic and try to go down deeper into the tradition and bring out a few things nobody has seen or heard of."
Take something as straightforward as shawarma, rotisserie-cooked beef or chicken sliced and served with garlic or tahini sauce (and which, Hamey adds, is given a distinctive twist at Laziza because of the marinade used there).
"We had, originally, a lot of customers who haven’t been introduced to it," Hamey says. "But once they try it, they regularly order it."
"Laziza" means "tastes good" in Arabic, Hamey says, and at Laziza, "we’re basically trying to create a place that has great, authentic Middle Eastern-style (dishes)."
Toward that end, Hamey’s father, Steve — who has experience in nutrition and the restaurant business, and who honed his cooking skills while living in Lebanon — oversees the kitchen.
Even such standards as hummus and baba ganoush receive "little touches of his own," Hamey says, giving diners a new perspective on a favorite they thought they already knew.
Laziza is divided into a 40-seat hookah room and a bar/restaurant/lounge that seats about 200. A small stage is the focal point for entertainment, and the current schedule includes nights dedicated to karaoke, DJs and live bands, as well as a Latin night and an "international night" when a DJ plays Middle Eastern music.
Laziza Hookah Lounge & Restaurant is open from 5 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Wednesdays and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Reservations aren’t required but are accepted.
Starters: Hummus, $6; baba ganoush, $6; falafel with tahini dipping sauce, $6
Salads: Fattoush (a Lebanese salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette and topped with toasted pita bread), $8; tabbouleh, $7
Entrees: Chicken or beef shawarma, $9 as a wrap or $14 as part of a dinner; soujouk (spicy beef sausage served in a sandwich), $9; chicken, lamb or filet mignon kebabs (two skewers per plate), $17 for mixed kebabs or $18 for double skewers of lamb or filet.
Desserts: Knafeh (a mixed-cheese dessert topped with a simple syrup), $8; homemade baklava, $6; tiramisu, $6