The Place: Mijana Lebanese Cuisine is a large chic space with Moroccan tile floors, hanging brass and glass lamps and wood tables both inside and on the patio. At the far end of the dining room is an open kitchen; the indoor dining room has antique carved doors and wrought iron window grates hung on rust colored walls with tapestries from Morocco. An area in front of double glass doors is used as a stage floor on Friday and Saturday nights for belly dancers. Enjoy the show with a cocktail or glass of Lebanese Ksara Blanc de Blanc, a complex blend of white wine made in the Bekaa Valley, one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world.
The History: Owner Walid Zabib is from Beirut, where he grew up in a restaurant family and studied fine arts and graphic design at the Lebanese American University and became the art director at an advertising company in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He visited an uncle in South Florida and later moved here due to the civil war in 1989 and went into the grocery business, giving him hands-on experience dealing with wholesalers and distributors. He then opened Shishka, a small restaurant in Pompano Beach that he still owns. He opened Mijana three years ago with his brother, chef Ali Husseini. Ali went to culinary school in Beirut, where he learned French and Lebanese cuisine (French because after World War I the Ottoman Turks were defeated after 400 years of rule by the French, who were in command until independence in 1943).
The Food: Lebanese cuisine is based on what thrives in the sun near the Mediterranean Sea and comes from the heart of hospitable people. Lebanese are descendants of the Phoenicians from the Levant, renowned traders who brought their food wherever they went. Start with warm pita for dipping in a small saucer of za’atar dip made from ground wild thyme, sesame seeds and olive oil. Hot or cold mezza follow, perhaps labneh (thick strained yogurt) with olive oil; mouhamara (red pepper dip with ground walnuts, bread crumbs, Aleppo pepper and pomegranate molasses) or fried kibbeh, shells of cracked wheat paste stuffed with ground lamb, onions and pine nuts. There’s also grilled halloumi cheese and fries seasoned with za’atar, sumac and salt. Entrees come with rice and vegetables. Choose from kebabs; boneless marinated and grilled Cornish hen or quail; thin sliced, slow roasted chopped beef and lamb shawarma; fasolia stew with white beans and lamb in tomato sauce with cilantro and garlic; or snapper filet topped with sautéed onions, tahini sauce and pine nuts known as samke harra from Tripoli. Finish with a small glass of arak, an anise spirit you pour over ice and mix with water, and rice pudding scented with rose and orange blossom waters sprinkled with cinnamon.
You Didn’t Know This: The meaning of mijana is a representation of love and morals in Lebanese poetry and music in the ataba, a traditional Arabic musical form sung at weddings and festivals and even at work. It was originally a Bedouin genre, improvised by a poet-singer accompanying himself on the rababa, a spike fiddle played with a bow.
If You Go
Place: Mijana Lebanese Cuisine
Address: 801 Silks Run, #1585, Village of Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m.
Prices: Pita wraps $11.75-$12.75, lunch plates $12.25-$13.50, Dinner mezze $6.95-$12.50, salads $6.50-$13.95, entrees $17.95-$35.75, desserts $5.95-$6.95