By Linda Bladholm
Mona Issa hopes that soon you will spend Saturday night at her oasis enjoying Middle Eastern delicacies and a belly dancing show, then return Sunday morning for yoga. The first-time restaurant owner and licensed chiropractor launched Bistro 82 three months ago, combining her love of food and healing. She is in the process of setting up a spa next door so customers can segue from a healthy meal to a back adjustment, massage or acupuncture treatment. (It will be a branch of her Zen Anti Aging Health Center on Lincoln Road.)
The Beirut native came to Miami 15 years ago to visit her brother, fell in love with the ocean and decided to stay. Her Lebanese dad and Egyptian mother made good food an important part of life — all the recipes at Bistro 82 are from Mom. Joseph Aoun, a restaurateur Issa met at Our Lady of Lebanon Church on Coral Way, keeps the bistro humming during the day. She comes from her practice at night to prep food for the next day and makes the desserts, including sweet cheese pies and milk pudding with rose water and pistachios. The contemporary space with polished cement floors and stain-less steel columns is a bit like a sophisticated deli with Arabic music and food.
Start the day with a croissant sandwich, hard-cooked eggs with herbs and smoked salmon or k’nafeh, a slab of mild melted cheese coated in sweet, fluffy pastry crumbs and soaked in fragrant sugar syrup. Graze on salads like tabbouleh and mixed greens with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, pine nuts and olives or grab a beef shwarma or chicken and melted Brie sandwich for lunch. There’s also lentil soup, couscous with herbs, savory crepes, Middle Eastern open pies and closed pies with spinach or cheese fillings layered between crackly phyllo-dough crusts.
A good strategy for a leisurely dinner with friends is to start with a mezze platter of falafel balls with hummus, marinated fava beans (foul), rice-stuffed grape leaves, spicy green olives, pickles and ijjit al jibne (Feta cheese omelet). Mix and match to create
your own platter — vegetarian or with kibbe (ground beef patties stuffed with pine nuts and spices).
The most unusual drink here is the avocado shake, blended with ice and milk (ask for the optional honey). A delicious ending on a chilly night is white "coffee” — a mug of hot water sweetened with sugar and a splash of rose water.
Bil hana wal shifa. (”May you enjoy your meal with gladness and health.")
Bistro 82 Mediterranean Cuisine, 8201 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-403-2995; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Fri, until midnight Sat. Breakfast $1.99-$5.99, appetizers $1.99-$9.99, sandwiches $5.99-$7.99
FYI: Live music and belly dancers Saturday nights.
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