*** Rannoosh has closed
It's seems like the Hillcrest area restaurant scene has gone through quite a flurry of changes recently, with everything from plate lunches(an L&L opened recently) to Vietnamese eateries opening in the area. Even the long standing Jimmy Wong's Golden Dragon is now Golden Dragon Asian Bistro, featuring Asian influenced dishes. Rannoosh is one of those recently opened restaurants featuring Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine.
The interior of Rannoosh has been done up with rich looking fabrics and drapes adorning the plush but dark interior. If you look carefully you can see the Hookah Pipes on the counter.
You get a little bowl of what I was told were pickled beets and olives delivered to your table. As JS clarified in the comments these are actually turnips, with beets added for color. I'd seen these at North Park Produce sold in jars, and the label said they were turnips, but the Young Lady insisted that they were beets. The pickles were on the bitter and sour end of the flavor spectrum:
There are a few olives hidden under those pickles.
On a recent lunchtime visit the Missus ordered the Lamb Kabob Sandwich($8.95):
The sandwich comes with your choice of green or potato salad. Here's a better look at the sandwich.
There were only four small cubes of lamb in the sandwich, along with a mild garlic spread, pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes. The lamb was very mild in flavor, and was completely obscured by everything else. The green salad had a simple vinaigrette, dotted with sumac and other herbs. The pita is unremarkable, seemed to be store-bought.
I ordered the Chicken Shawarma Sandwich($6.95):
There was a large portion of moist and tender dark meat chicken, though somewhat mild in flavor, was still quite good. I swear I tasted fenulgreek, but can't be sure. This was a very nice and satisfying sandwich, though one couldn't help but compare it to the Garlic Chicken sandwich at Mama's. If I were to do a comparison, I'd say the flavors(especially the Garlic Paste) at Mama's are much stronger, but I'd rather have the Chicken at Rannoosh. I wish something along the line of the bread at Mama's(made to order on the Sajj) were used at Rannoosh. If you order a sandwich for lunch I'd say that the creamy and tasty potato salad is the way to go.
Needing to get out of the office on a recent lunch hour I walked over to Rannoosh for lunch. This time around I ordered The Basterma (cured, air dried beef) Sandwich($6.95):
The First time I ordered this, the Young Lady wanted to make sure that I knew that the beef is not cooked, just air dried. The slices of cured beef; think between pastrami and beef jerky, is placed in a pita, with tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumber. I've had the Armenian version of Basterma, which seemed to be cut alot thinner. This version was cut maybe a bit too thick. On each bite you risked pulling the entire slice of beef out of the sandwich.
If you enjoy the salty, more intense flavor of cured meat you may enjoy this, though the meat can be tough. I asked what the beef was cured with and was told, mainly salt and paprika, and a few other seasonings. You can even see the "cure-ring" on the slices of meat:
Last but not least an appetizer portion of Falafel($5.95). Because these are formed and made to order, they always arrive after my sandwich, but let me tell you, they are worth it:
Having had Falafel ranging from teeth cracking hard, to so gritty and dry it felt like you were eating a handful of sand, let me just say these were Delici-yoso!!! The exterior were a perfect crunchy, and the interior of the Falafel were, dare I say, almost creamy with just a touch of "grit". The Falafel had a perfect amount of "zing", though the tahini based dip was very weak. Who cares, I didn't need it anyway. I could eat these often. In fact the Lady working noticed how much I was enjoying these and told me to try the "Stuffed" (with onions and pine nuts) Falafel next time around.
I'll be back to Rannoosh, maybe for dinner, definitely for falafel. Entrees range from $9.95 to 25.95. Rannoosh seems to do more dinner business then lunch, and the turn around for lunch may be on the long side, so plan accordingly.
3890 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103