11 February, 2011
SittiComments : 2 Posted in : Dining in Raleigh - NC, Restaurants, Spirits on by : The Gourmez
137 S. Wilmington Street
Hours: M—Th: 11 am to 10 pm
F—Sat: 11 am to 12 am
Sun: 11 am to 9pm
Fill up for $8–$24
Sitti is an upscale, Lebanese restaurant in downtown Raleigh with a large selection of both hot and cold mezzes (appetizers/dips/small plates), salads, flatbread pizzas, kabobs, and entrees that run from lamb and okra stew to less traditional offerings like steaks with fingerling potatoes, and green beans in a Dijon and cognac cream sauce. You could easily manage a meal out of a couple of the mezzes and not be sorry for it. Desserts also come in a range from the traditional to the American, with rice pudding made with orange blossom water, pistachios, and cinnamon sharing space with the Sitti Float of coca cola and vanilla bean ice cream.
Per their website, Sitti is Lebanese for grandmother, and the name speaks to the restaurant owners’ heritage because Lebanese cooking and traditions were taught to them through their grandmothers’ presences at the table. The decor reflects this intermingling of cultures, or I might say, this celebration of Lebanese food within an American shell. Beautiful portraits are all over the walls of what look to be Lebanese men and women in years gone by. Those walls are pistachio green and go very nicely with the modern, dark and blond wood seating. The see-through, colored-glass lamps call back nicely to the hookahs that rested just behind our table.
I had a fun time catching up with a childhood friend over some drinks, including the Qahweh.
The cocktails were all fairly standard mixtures given a Lebanese twist by the addition of pomegranate juice. Beers came from Lebanon, Turkey, and all over North America and Europe. A large selection of wines from Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece were available along with options from more standard wine-producing countries.
Puffed pita bread was served with an olive oil and, I think, sumac dipping sauce, which was very good. For the meal, my new-old friend and I both decided on the Sitti tasting ($17.59), because why only choose an item or two when you can have six?
It included hommos, baba ghanouj, fattoush, chicken shawarma, kibbee mikkli, and cheese rolls. I was in heaven. Each item tasted incredibly fresh. My favorite was the oh-so-delicious garlic whip on top of the juicy chicken shawarma. It tasted fantastic though what it was a whip of is still a mystery to me-—I swear feta and milk was involved somehow. The baba ghanouj came in second for its delightful bursts of flavor from the pomegranate seeds tossed on top. Also definitely worth trying were the kibbe mikli, a cornbread-like dumpling stuffed with ground beef and lamb, pine nuts, and perfect spicing. The cheese rolls stuffed with gruyere, feta, and mint were also delicious.
My husband had the sfiha mezze ($7.59), a flatbread pizza with ground lamb, onions, pine nuts, tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, and spices.
He enjoyed it, but didn’t have much to share about it, as is usually the case.
Of course, I couldn’t say no to dessert, and I opted for the walnut biscuits with marshmallow cream sauce.
The biscuits ($5.59) were like English scones and soft, warm, and stuffed with just a smidge of walnut and cardamom filling. The thin cream sauce was just the right taste for dipping them into. I especially liked the hint of orange blossom in the sauce, if my taste buds were correct.
My friend, obviously a woman after my own heart, had the walnut biscuits AND ordered baklava ($5.59) to take home.
We didn’t try it, but it looks like good baklava. It’s hard to get baklava horribly wrong, in my experience, unless it’s stale, and I don’t think stale in in Sitti’s vocabulary. My husband opted for the ashta ($5.59): milk pudding with bananas and honey sandwiched between layers of phyllo dough and pistachios. It made for an impressive presentation, though presentation was great all around.
I took a bite and was surprised that the milk pudding tasted more like a whipped cream. It was delicious.
In case you couldn’t tell by my near lack of complaint, I thought Sitti was fantastic. I wish the cocktail list was more inventive, but that means I should drink wine in the future. An inviting, intriguing atmosphere combined with exceptional ingredients—-I cannot stress enough the quality of their ingredients—-made for a great afternoon dining out. Let me know when you go, because I can’t wait to go back again!