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Published: Thursday, 11/9/2006

Restaurant review: Ferdos Mediterranean Restaurant ***

Like Phoenix, the mythical firebird that never dies, Ferdos Mediterranean Restaurant has risen from the ashes - not once but twice.

The restaurant, located on West Bancroft Street in the midst of the University of Toledo neighborhood, suffered a debilitating fire in 1997. The damage was repaired and the restaurant reopened, only to be struck by a more devastating fire in 2005.

In June, the rebuilt, refurbished Ferdos reopened once again, serving the same fare that has given the restaurant a loyal following from the start, not just among the college crowd and nearby Old Orchard residents, but diners in general.

I was always under the impression that the name Ferdos referred to a person, but Maher Barazi, a native of Syria who bought the place sometime after the first fire, says the word is Arabic for "Paradise."

Paradise is what the kitchen aspires to deliver a little bit of in each meal. The menu encompasses traditional dishes from the Mediterranean rim, with accents on Syrian, Lebanese, Greek, and Italian specialties. You'll find char-grilled kabobs, kafta, fatoosh, tabbouli, shish tawook and shawerma, Greek salads, spaghetti, and warm and puffy pita bread - the best I've had. Also offered are steaks, salmon, burgers, and fish sandwiches.

Unlike some middle eastern eateries, Ferdos serves alcohol.

If and when I ever pass through the pearly gates of Paradise, I hope things are a little more heavenly than Ferdos. The dcor leans toward the bland - blond wood tables and chairs, dull gray carpeting, and blank, mustard-colored walls whose only bow to style is filigree around the window frames.

Nevertheless, it's hard to ignore the fragrance of garlic emanating from the glass-partitioned kitchen or the camaraderie of the employees. On our visits, Barazi himself came by to say hello to patrons.

Soups regularly on the stove are chicken noodle and crushed lentil ($1.95/$2.50), and appetizers include the requisite lamb-stuffed grape leaves ($6.25), eggplant-laden baba-ghannouj ($5.95), and falafel ($5.25).

For lunch, a lamb-and-beef gyro ($6.95) was good but otherwise unremarkable, while platters of chicken tawook ($8.95) and shrimp kabobs ($9.95), slimmed-down versions of the dinner entres, were a bargain, featuring a skewer accompanied by rice, vegetables, hummus, salad, and delicious garlic sauce.

Dinner brought beautifully grilled salmon ($13.95) and a juicy New York strip steak ($16.95), but a disappointing, fat-riddled lamb chop ($16.95). Not so a succulent dish called galaba ($13.95), loaded with a choice of beef or chicken dripping in a stew of olive oil, lemon sauce, rice, and a medley of vegetables. Ferdos, indeed.

Contact Bill of Fare at: fare@theblade.com



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