REVIEW: Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant and Bar

Moroccan chicken at Laffa in downtown Tulsa. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

The dishes at Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant & Bar are unlike any Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food we’ve had in Tulsa.

Miranda Kaiser and her husband, Phil, who also own the Brookside restaurant Cosmo, spent 15 and 17 years, respectively, in Israel.

“We cook the kind of food Phil and I like best,” Miranda said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with Cosmo, but I always wanted to do this type of restaurant. I never thought Tulsa was ready for it until now.”

Judging by the crowds the restaurant has drawn recently, Tulsa is ready for it.

We spotted only one empty table when we visited on a weeknight that typically is slow for most places.

Many of the dishes and ingredients might seem unfamiliar to first-time diners, but explanations on the menu were a blessing, and our server, Christina, also was helpful in making decisions.

We decided to share My Big Fat Brown Rice salad ($8.99) and a glass of Greek white wine while looking over the entrees.

In addition to the brown rice, the salad had a beautifully balanced mix of cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet red onions tossed in an oregano mint vinaigrette on mixed greens and topped with feta cheese, shredded chicken breast, parsley and pine nuts. We loved the fresh pine nuts and the minty dressing that pulled everything together.

For entrees, we settled on the Best Darn Beef Tagine This Side of Casablanca ($15.99) and honey and herb lamb kabobs with mint “chimichurri” sauce ($17.99).

Tagine is a Moroccan stew and, like most stews, can be made dozens of ways. The Laffa way is to slow-cook big, tender chunks of beef with sage, rosemary, thyme, red wine, garlic, roasted tomatoes, onions, cumin, cilantro, parsley, dates, allspice, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika and honey, and serve over buttered Persian rice. It was quite a combination of seasonings, and the smoked paprika seemed to be the leader of the pack.

The lamb kabobs, cooked medium-rare, were flavorful but a bit tough. They were served over couscous and drizzled with a vinaigrette of mint, parsley, cilantro and garlic. It came with labneh, a dipping sauce that Kaiser describes as similar to a combination of sour cream, cream cheese and Greek yogurt.

Both entrees came with a light, minty side salad, and we shared a large piece of laffa. Laffa is a bread cooked on the sides of an oven similar to a tandoor oven used to cook the East Indian flat bread naan. Our laffa was thinner and crispier than naan we’ve had in the past.

Dessert is not just an after-thought, and ours were exceptional. My wife had pistachio almond creme ($5.99), and I blindly ordered Harem’s Little Helper ($6.99) with no regard to what it actually was.

My wife was pleased with the pistachio ice cream with vanilla almond milk and topped with a generous serving of whipped cream and crushed pistachios. Mine turned out to be a refreshing blood orange sorbet with a touch of Pama pomegranate liqueur and topped off with sparkling wine.

A good way to try a variety of new dishes is to order a mezze (appetizer) medley of six or 12 items.

The restaurant also has a walk-up falafel-shawarma window that is open all day and has been popular with late-night diners and those visiting the nearby Guthrie Green.

Laffa has a main dining room and a bar area with brown leather-like banquettes, shiny black tables and modern, curvy designs. Among the decorating accents are a glass mosaic on the floor, swirly white light fixtures, a light fixture made from a goat skin that Kaiser brought from Turkey and the word “Laffa” on a stone wall with the letters made from a variety of items, including fruits and beans.

Find this and other reviews in Thursday's Weekend magazine. Or find all of Scott Cherry's reviews at tulsaworld.com/cherrypicks.

LAFFA MEDI-EASTERN RESTAURANT & BAR

111 N. Main St.

918-728-3147

Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, dinner 5-10 p.m. every day (bar open later on weekends), falafel window 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight or later Friday-Saturday; gluten-free available; accepts all major credit cards.