Like a succulent carrot (the kind that sends Bugs Bunny into fits of ecstasy), the gyro has lured many a hungry diner into small eateries across America.
This delectable Greek sandwich consisting of spit roasted meat (usually a blend of lamb and beef along with various spices) rolled into a pita bread and topped with such things as raw onions, tomatoes, cucumber and yogurt sauce has often led diners to try other exotic specialties ranging from tabouleh to stuffed grape leaves. It also is the mainstay for many a place that features different Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.Most of the luncheon customers at L'Emir (formerly the Jewel) were munching on gyros; but we were drawn to the Lebanese dishes featured in the refrigerated deli cases, including such standards as kibbeh along with stuffed peppers and fried cauliflower.
The interior is small and a bit worn. It fits right into the student-trod neighborhood along 200 South just off the U.'s main circle. A 24-hour print shop and a somewhat rowdy pizza place are in the same line of shops. Posters and flyers advertising assorted campus information, along with lost and found needs, are tacked haphazardly on the outside wall.
In addition to the gyros ($2.69), to satisfy our hungry children, we were attracted to two of the special platters (each $4.99) - one vegetarian and the other featuring roasted chicken. We also sampled several of the other Middle Eastern dishes and each of the three desserts.
Our experience ranged from mixed to disappointing. Several of the standard dishes were very good. The
hommos, pureed chick peas blended with sesame tahini and seasoned with lemon juice and garlic, was topped with chopped onion and tomato, as well as an unnecessary dill pickle slice. The baba ghanouge, mashed broiled egg plant also mixed with sesame tahini, was mild and nicely prepared.
Unfortunately, the fried cauliflower and spinach roll, actually a pie of phyllo dough, were soggy and devoid of any distinctive flavor or texture. The tabouleh, a cold salad of cracked wheat, chopped parsley, onions and tomato dressed with lemon juice and mint, was also limp and tasteless.
The chicken plate was served with a generous portion of rice and topped with chucks of stringy and bland chicken. If the chicken had been roasted, any seasonings and subsequent flavor had somehow vanished by the time it was served.
The kibbeh ($1.10), a cracked wheat-filled specialty with pine nuts, ground meat, and onion, was dry. The same fate befell the falafel, fried balls of ground chick peas, fava beans, and parsley. The outside texture was especially coarse in both of these dishes.
We enjoyed each of the three desserts, especially the bussma (99 cents) and sufuf (95 cents). The latter is a red and golden colored cake, spiced with a hint of annisette and turmeric. The bussma is a walnut pastry topped with thin shreds of wheat and covered with honey. The baklava ($1.25) was also delicious.
In addition to the gyros and several special platters, L'Emir also offers hamburgers; Philly-style cheese and steak sandwich; and beef, lamb or chicken shish kebab.
L'Emir might please those who thirst for a bit of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. But based on our recent visit, this hearty and colorful cuisine lacked any of the care and attention it deserves.
Rating: * * 1/2
L'Emir Mediterranean Food. 1328 E. 200 South, 583-1803. Open from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. No credit cards; checks with guarantee cardsaccepted. Take out and catering services available.