Mombar - 25-22 Steinway Street, Astoria, NY 11103
N/W Train to Astoria Blvd
Mombar has been on my must-list of restaurants for quite some time. Margot and I have been meaning to try it for the last year or so and finally made it here just yesterday. Dan joined us as well, not knowing what to expect and surprisingly he was the one who liked it most.
The most impressive part of the look-and-feel of Mombar is the evident sweat and tears that went into it. I can't stop thinking about what Kari--a fellow Astoria blogger--said about the decor and mosaics in this establishment. "...the beautiful dining room and the mosaics were all decorated and made by Moustafa (the owner) himself. Apparently, it took him seven years to finish while he ran a copy machine repair shop to finance it. SEVEN YEARS." That's absolutely incredible and the hard work really shows.
Our mood immediately transformed upon walking into Mombar's relaxing, dimly-lit dining room. The cushy seating with colorful pillows and the mosaic work-of-art tables made us stop and take everything in. I tell you...we didn't feel like we were in the U.S. anymore and if Egypt is anything like Mombar, sign me up. But what brought us back to reality and made us realize we were still in Astoria was the diverse clientele. In front of us was a middle aged man who was clearly a regular, speaking to the waiter in Arabic and to our right was a young couple, decked in some pretty trendy garb. So, as you can see--like typical Astoria--anything goes!
I had really high expectations in the food department--and after so many stellar reviews from Astorians, I couldn't imagine how any of them could be wrong. After my experience here, sadly I cannot join the raving. While I did think the food was good, it wasn't exceptional and Margot agreed. Dan on the other hand loved it and would go back in a heartbeat. Here's what we tried:
Complimentary House Bread: By far my favorite dish of the night. The bread was fried and had a flaky consistency. The inside reminded me of "pao de queijo"--Brazilian cheese bread. Although Mombar's bread did not have cheese, it was luxuriously soft and stretchy, the best part being the spicy, sesame dip that came with it. The three of us devoured it quickly and if this was a preview of what was to come, we couldn't wait.
Mombar Sausage: Also very good stuff and not heavy. The sausage was soft and very different from the Greek homemade sausage I've tried at Ovelia. The filling had both beef and rice and various fragrant spices. Margot and Dan both noted that the filling reminded them of the guts of a stuffed pepper or cabbage--and I tend to agree. What I also liked about this dish was the soft garbanzo bean and tomato sauce that was poured over the sausage. It would've been so perfect for dipping but our bread was looong gone.
Lamb Tajine: I was looking forward to this and I cheated by looking at the menu ahead of time. I love anything that comes in a tajine--clay pot--and is falling off the bone. The lamb itself was tender and juicy and the veggies that surrounded it formed a mouth watering stew. The dish was served alongside a pyramid of couscous with dried cranberries--a good idea and I've tried this myself before. Although I couldn't finish my entire clay pot, I managed to pick out all the meat and share a bit with my companions.
Chicken Tajine and Rabbit Tajine: Margot and Dan both got their own tajines--Dan opted for chicken and Margot got adventurous with the rabbit. Both enjoyed it and I had the chance to try them too. Of the two, I liked the rabbit better and as Margot pointed out, it tasted like chicken. Although Dan loved his chicken dish, I thought that the actual meat was very dry.
Overall, while the food was tasty, I couldn't help but compare it to the Moroccan restaurant, Walima. Margot and I both agreed that the food was far better there and especially their tajines.
Service and Cost:
Our waiter was wonderful--a portly man with a friendly disposition. All dishes arrived in good time and were steaming hot. He was polite about taking our order and when the check came, we didn't feel pressured to leave. All in all, a very relaxing and pleasant meal.
In terms of the moolah, it's moderate and in my opinion a little overpriced. I can't help it but once again, I compared it to Walima. Mobar Tajine--$18, Walima Tajine--$12.95. I'm not lying when I say that the portions at Walima are bigger too. Dinner at Mombar will cost you about $30 per person--including a drink and an appetizer. At Walima, you are looking at $20-$22.