what: labneh with Damascus bread
where: Arabesque, 2930 Devine St.
Labneh is a soft cheese made from strained yogurt. That doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? I first had it before I knew what it was. When we were younger and broker, my husband used yogurt (which we could buy from our co-op at a hefty discount), a thin cloth, and a colander to make something resembling cream cheese, which we would add to sandwiches for bagels from the day-old bin. It was pretty good! It’s also nice to be able to afford cream cheese. But I digress.
Years later in a restaurant, I tried labneh, which is really the same thing, but garnished with lots of fresh olive oil and herbs like mint. And instead of being smeared on day-old bagels, labneh (at least at Arabesque) is served with hot, fresh Damascus bread. The bread alone is a treat, light and flaky, topped with sesame seeds. And, sure, labneh is listed as an appetizer, but no one will judge you for calling it a meal. Add a crunchy fattoush salad with cucumbers, crispy bell pepper, tomatoes, parsley, and olive oil if you need a vegetable.
At Arabesque, the portions are generous and the prices are fair. But if you’re on a budget and craving the light and creamy deliciousness that is labneh (or the spiced and earthy crunchiness of falafel, or the wrapped and stuffed comfort of grape leaves, or any number of other Lebanese appetizers), go to Arabesque for happy hour, when a slightly smaller portion of labneh is just $3. There’s a whole happy hour menu of inexpensive appetizers. Order an assortment and call it a meal!
Arabesque is open daily from 11 a.m., closing at 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 9 p.m. on Sunday. Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.