I haven’t gone out to eat in a while, but at the same time, I have gotten a little tired of the Asian fare of Collegetown. As much as I like Asian food, I think 5 years of being surrounded by mostly that in Collegetown can get a little old. For that reason, I decided to go to Sahara, the Mediterranean place downtown.
I started with the Labneh. The Labneh was Greek yogurt topped with olive oil and dry mint served with warm pita bread. The yogurt was extremely rich, and the olive oil and dry mint complemented the yogurt nicely. Overall, the feel of the food reminded me of getting a hug from someone I love. As I am quite unfamiliar with Middle Eastern food in general, I suspect this is a comfort food to them as it is quite comforting.
The main course was the lamb chops. Tonight’s special was the lamb chop coming with half-priced dessert. The meal consisted of three lamb chops, a small mound of rice, and skewered grilled vegetables.
The lamb had glorious grill marks and was seasoned with mint leaves, overall complementing the juiciness of the lamb itself. What I really like about lamb is that unlike most meats, it needs very little help for flavoring, so I could just taste the lamb by itself in all its glory.
The rice had some butter in it. While it added to the overall heaviness of the meal, the creamy-salty flavor helped balance the meatiness of the lamb.
As I just couldn’t turn down the half-off dessert deal, I went with the chocolate spoon cake. It more or less was a straight up chocolate cake drizzled with raspberry sauce. As I have pretty horrific nut allergies, I asked the waiter if the cake was free of nuts, and he warned me that it was processed in a facility that also processes nuts. That leads me to believe the desserts are in fact packaged (and possibly frozen) as opposed to baked on-site. However, I did enjoy the cake a lot. Like everything else I had tonight, it was extremely rich. For that reason, I probably should have gone with the lemon cream cake (which I had and enjoyed very much before), but the chocolate cake was also very nice.
While the cake was nice, I would honestly recommend heading over to Madeline’s for dessert. Madeline’s, unlike Sahara, is known for its desserts both in terms of variety and quality. I personally would opt for a Madeline’s creme brûlée to chase down a lamb chop any day.
Overall though, if you’re really jonesing for meat, then you cannot really go wrong with a place like Sahara. It had some of the best lamb I’ve eaten in a while and also some of the most comforting comfort food. The main reason I wouldn’t go more frequently has everything to with the rather hefty tab I paid, which was on the order of $42 including wine and tip. The price is of little surprise as Sahara is a pretty classy place with a very nice wine selection.
The verdict: The Middle Eastern-est Middle Eastern dish I have eaten in Ithaca.