Nawal’s Kebab House & Grill

Bill Coyne Monday, February 20, 2023 Comments Off on Nawal’s Kebab House & Grill
Nawal’s Kebab House & Grill

409 W. Prien Lake Road, Lake Charles

Nothing thrills me more than witnessing our little corner of Louisiana expand, especially when it comes to new restaurants and businesses. Throughout our community, I often hear of pitches and ideas, and the rumors surrounding the possibility of a new restaurant. Unfortunately, a lot of those ideas tend to just fade away. However, when Easy Balbeisi said to me, “I have a new restaurant coming,” backed with his ear to ear smile, I knew it was more than just an idea. And my anticipation of the restaurant began. 

I first had the pleasure of meeting Zeus To-Go owner Balbeisi while I was volunteering with one of the community meal camps post-Hurricane Laura. He was a cheerful and exuberant young man.

Every few months I fired off a message asking about his progress and the prospective opening date. The reply I always received was “Soon.” If anything, it was a validation of progress. 

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we slipped into the new year. A simple message appeared on my phone, “We’re opening Saturday.” Well, OK then. This was something I’d been looking forward to for quite some time. 

With fresh new décor, colors and identity, Nawal’s had taken residency in the former Zeus restaurant location. 

When it comes to restaurant openings, I don’t typically dive into the brand new venue. It’s only fair to give the team time to dial into their flow, form a little cohesiveness and work out the kinks. 

However, there are exceptions to the rule. This, being one of them. 

As my wife and I crossed the threshold, there was a mild frenzy in the air. After all, opening night jitters are real. 

Welcomed by the hostess, we were offered our choice of a booth or a table. Opting for a table, we were ushered to our seats with full view of the kitchen preparations. 

Laura introduced herself as our server. Typically, Shyla and I drink a cocktail as we contemplate which appetizers we want to share. But Laura convinced me to begin our dinner with a bottle of Cabernet Savignon, Bekka Valley, Lebanon. 

The menu is expansive. The restaurant offers the epitome of Middle Eastern cuisine, delivering the spice, flavor and soul in Lebanese and Greek flair.  

To start our evening, my wife and I agreed upon the flaky shrimp appetizer. Unsure what “flaky shrimp” was, we decided to give it a go. Presented to us were several medium shrimp coated in a thin and crispy fried crust, with a mild Asian-esque sweet red pepper sauce. 

At this point, we shifted gears and really got to some of the best of what Nawal’s has to offer. From the silky smooth hummus, served with hot off the press pita, to Halloumi: a dish comprised of seared goat cheese with olive oil, garlic and mint and the Batata Harra. Crisp exterior potato yields to tender potato cuts with subtle flavors of garlic and cilantro. Through the teaser dishes, we push forward with the entrees in sight. 

The mixed grill is a combination of two proteins or a vegetable. For this dish, I chose the chicken and the lamb combination. The edges showed touches of singe, the result of a caramelization process as the sugars cook off with each passing across the heat source, allowing more flavor to the already seasoned protein. Served with pita, marinated onion and hummus, this proved to be a fantastic dish. 

There was a pretty presentation of the okra stew. Baked in a clay pot, tender lamb simmered in a tomato-based broth of peppers, onion and seasoning and plenty of okra. I have to preface this with the fact that I am not, and I cautiously admit this, enticed by okra. I only like breaded and fried. I will use tomatoes in my gumbo before I add okra, and I can assure you, neither will happen. 

I could have taken Shyla’s word for how the dish tasted. But I needed to sample it for myself. With that being said, I dipped my spoon into the stew to take a sip. I looked at her in complete amazement to see her smirk as if to say I told you so, before my eyes rolled back in my head. Forgetting everything I said about okra, this stew, an exquisite exception to the rule, is by far one of the most pleasant tasting dishes I’ve had. It’s rich and flavorful; just a deep experience, and has completely changed my perspective on okra.

My wife and I agreed we could not end our indulgence without a slice of baklava. The butter-crusted flaky pastry dough, a sweet blend of nuts, spice and honey layered within completes a fantastic dining experience.

  Even with those first night jitters, putting it all to the test for the diners,  from the moment we stepped through the door, to our goodbyes, the fruition was well worth the anticipation.

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