Columbus’ Syrian Kitchen makes Levantine delicacies its personal

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GA Benton

Hummus and falafel are almost as easy to find in Columbus as cheeseburgers and fries. Not all dishes are created equal, but diners who tend to eat the ubiquitous classics should try the food from Syrian cuisine. It is notable because this newcomer to local Levantine cuisine cooks several well-known dishes in a way that is slightly different and slightly more interesting than most of its competitors.

Syrian Kitchen itself is not that easy to find. It’s a tiny, no-frills to-go operation that sits in an alcove of a Dublin industrial park made up of identical buildings with odd angles.

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Ordering is not always child’s play either. I highly recommend ordering online from Syrian Kitchen’s Instagram page. I also suggest that the restaurant list large orders upon arrival (the online tab was alarmingly flawed at one point). Call us to find out how long your order might be and wait longer.

Pistachio baklava, crispy bundles of pastries, lightly sweetened and filled with roasted pistachios

You may have to overcome some hurdles to get Syrian Kitchen food. But the payoff is one of the most seductive versions of dishes like tabouleh, baba ghanoush, kibbeh, fattoush, and baklava in town.

Plenty of fresh lemon juice made the super-fresh parsley tabbouleh ($ 4.99) from Syrian Kitchen really sing. Also in the chorus: cucumber and tomato cubes as well as reasonable amounts of olive oil and bulgur wheat.

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Lemon also invigorated the fine herb-infused fat ($ 3.99). Though dressed up, my salad with Romaine, extra crispy pita chips, and atypical but cherished good-quality black olives outperformed most of the fatty salads in Columbus.

Kebab, delicious kefta style logs

Syrian Kitchen is also making my new favorite Baba Ghanoush ($ 4.99). The gently smoky eggplant-based dip was unusually creamy and flavorful, and was lightened up with a notable, but not overwhelming, splash of lemon.

The great fried kibbeh ($ 7.99 for four) was another very distinctive offering. Rather than just seasoned ground beef (as you usually get it from local restaurants), the beefy, zeppelin-shaped croquettes were filled with sizable chunks of beef, enriched with chopped, crispy nuts and tasting like golden raisins.

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The pleasant falafel ($ 1.50 for four) may be less fragrant than others, but is more in the shape of a donut than a round. Try them with the appealing tahini-rich and earthy hummus ($ 3.99).

Grilled meat – most come with pre-made french fries – makes up most of the main course. My favorites (more or less okay) were the beef kebab in a sandwich ($ 7.99) – juicy roasted beef topped with clove and cinnamon, plus cucumber, hummus, and tomato wrapped in toasted but stretchy shrak (a flatbread, which is much thinner than pita)); “Kebab” ($ 12.99) – seared, fragrant, and delicious kefta-style logs; and Shish Taouk ($ 12.99) – well-marinated chicken kebabs with a garden-style grill treatment and a lemony garlic sauce that effectively fights dry spots on meat.

Quozi served with long grain rice

Two locally rare menu items – Mandi ($ 15.99) and Quozi ($ 14.99) – featured somewhat similar, attractively grilled hallows served with flavorful, multi-colored, long-grain rice made more interesting with toasted flaked almonds. Both savory birds had irresistibly wrinkled skin and flesh from the bone, but the chests on each were rather dry. Name the dishes near Misses.

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Call the desserts I tried right on the destination. The soothing milk pudding here called mihlaya ($ 2.99) – I’ve only seen it in other cities where it’s called “Mahalabia” – was topped with contrasting crispy nuts and was really good.

In contrast to this lovely confection, you can find baklava all over town. But Syrian Kitchen’s pistachio baklava ($ 5.99 for eight) – buttery, flaky, crunchy pastry bundles that were lightly sweetened (instead of soaked) in syrup and filled with crispy and heavily roasted pistachios – was a little different and something better than most of the others.

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At a glance

Where: Syrian cuisine

Place: 2630 Billingsley Road, North West Side

Contact: 614-432-1902, www.lineskipping.com/syriankitchen