Cuisine: Middle Eastern
3120 Olentangy River Road
Open Monday-Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 12-8pm
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Janet’s Kitchen is tucked into the side of the International Plaza Market, and is run by Janet and her business partner Hishim (who previously cooked at the Happy Greek before starting this venture last year). The duo hail from Syria and Egypt, and offer a variety of Middle Eastern dishes ranging from standards such as shwarma and gyro to roast chicken and lamb shank. Falafel are freshly made to order and were among the best we’ve tried in town.
We were particularly taken by the kefta kebab which was notably juicy and flavorful. It can be ordered with rice and vegetables or as a pita sandwich.
As both the lamb shank and chicken are extremely tender, Janet tutted at us when we asked for a knife, finally handing us one even though she swore that we would not need it. She was right. Lamb, chicken and other daily specials (fish fillet or meatballs are two examples we have seen) come with a mountain of rice and sauteed vegetables. It makes for a hearty meal as well as a good value. The rice was exceptionally good and unique – we were very curious as to how it was made but Janet wasn’t giving away any secrets. We’re guessing butter had something to do with it.
There are also a variety of salads and cold dishes pictured below: tabbouleh, salad shirazi (cucumber and tomato), red cabbage salad and roasted eggplant. Most notable was the garlicky, tart, roasted eggplant.
Janet’s Kitchen has two or three tables set up to dine in but is primarily set up for take out.
The market has a butcher’s counter at the back of the store and a bulk dried goods section as well as a decent range of Middle Eastern packaged goods.
The Olive Tree
3185 Hilliard-Rome Road
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Colonel Gaddafi may be dead, but his favorite breakfast lives on! According to The Olive Tree’s owner David Mor, Gaddafi was a fan of shakshuka – a Middle Eastern dish that is also popular in David’s country of birth, Israel. Shakshuka has become one of my favorite brunch items. A thick stew of tomatoes, onions and peppers in which two eggs are poached. The dish is served in a cast iron skillet (be careful you don’t burn the roof of your mouth) and can be spiced up with merguez sausage, feta cheese, or today’s special – eggplant.
Each pan of shakshuka is served with a pile of pita triangles to dip into the stew and (my favorite part) the runny egg yolk.
The brunch offerings at The Olive Tree (served 10am-2pm) on Sundays run the gamut of the Jewish diaspora, ranging from bagels and lox to Challah french toast and jachnun – a traditional Yemenite Jewish breakfast dish, cooked slowly overnight so that one does not have to cook on the sabbath. Jachnun is a crunchy pastry dish that is served with a hard boiled egg, fresh grated tomato and a hot sauce called s’chug.
It’s hard to resist adding an order (or two) or the burekas. A crispy, cheesy puff pastry dish that’s always perfectly golden brown.
David and his wife Tammy are always at the restaurant and are extremely friendly. David loves to interact with guests and is willing to share his fascinating life story. He was formerly an exercise physiologist and soccer coach before fulfilling a dream of owning his a restaurant.
The Olive Tree has a broad lunch and dinner menu that represents many different Mediterranean countries as well as a few American staples. It’s definitely a something-for-everyone kind of a place. There are a number of dishes that are less commonly found in Columbus. Two of my favorites are the two dips machmusa and matbucha. Machmusa is made from sauteed eggplants which are slow cooked with tomato and onion. Matbucha is a tomato based Moroccan dip slow cooked with roasted red and jalapeno peppers, garlic and olive oil. We also enjoyed The Olive Tree’s rendition of baba ganouj .