When you crave Middle Eastern food, head to Shaddai Fine Lebanese Cuisine in the corner of a Pinecrest strip mall.
Several carved wood camels and colorful leather standing lamps greet customers by the doorway. Specialties include mezze platters, pita wraps, kebabs, grilled rack of lamb and catch of the day broiled in nutty tahini with tart sumac.
Owner-chef Anton “Tony” Samour was born in Bethlehem but emigrated with his family to South Florida when he was a teen. After high school he worked in construction and ran a convenience store where he met his Guatemalan wife, Elizabeth.
They opened Arabian Nights in Doral, fulfilling Tony’s love of cooking (he was making falafel in shops back home as a youngster). When trying to move the restaurant, stress from getting permits brought on a stroke that left his right hand numb.
His wife had a dream that his luck would change if he named the new restaurant Shaddai, meaning God Almighty in an ancient Semitic language. After surgery he took over the lease of a Pincecrest bistro and rebuilt the interior, opening in December with old customers soon finding him.
Every table is brought free pita chips and smoky eggplant dip.
Appetizers include small football-shape cracked wheat kibbe stuffed with ground beef; grape leaves rolled with a mix of rice, chickpeas and mint; and shanklish made with olive oil-marinated feta and oregano, crushed red pepper and a secret spice blend — good scooped in pliant pita.
Entrees come with toum, an emulsion of garlic, lemon and oil that’s similar to aioli, and basmati rice steamed with toasted bits of angel hair pasta.
Try lemon chicken with artichoke hearts, skewers of jumbo shrimp, or grilled skinless salmon fillet topped with cucumber salad and honey-lemon sauce.
Save room for phyllo pastry flowers filled with chopped pine nuts and honey.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.