The ethnically diverse food scene is always a draw for me to take the three plus-hour road trip down to Portland.
This time, I wanted to try out this highly rated Lebanese and Syrian restaurant called Karam.
We went with a very big group, and were the only people at the restaurant — that got me worried a bit.
Slowly people trickled in, and next thing we knew, by the midst of our dinner, the restaurant was packed.
It was also a very good sign that most patrons were of arabic decent, we definitely went to the right place.
There were many interesting dishes that I wanted to try.
Appetizers such as Fataya, a pastry dough wrapped beef, tomatoes and onions; Kibbee balls, bulgar wheat with roast beef and pine nuts, and entrée such as goat casserole; Kibbee Saneeyeh, a layer of bulgar wheat, ground beef and spices, similar to the one at Sunset Gyro; and Molohkie, rice and bread with lamb, molohkie plant (jute family) and spinach.
Of course, two other Middle Eastern staples that I always like to try different restaurants’ interpretations: ful mudamas, cooked fava beans with garlic and spices; and kafta, ground beef with onions and spices, and shaped like sausages.
Just as most Mediterranean restaurants, Karam’s portions were amazingly generous.
First off, the accompanying pita breads were huge! And puffy!
Warm and delicious, a great compliment to all the saucy dishes.
Unfortunately the day I was there, I did not feel like too much meat, and I went for their Moussaka.
Carrots, potatoes and eggplants were diced in small pieces.
Tomato sauce was delicious and I opted for lamb kafta addition, which was very good.
The kafta was awesomely garlicky with lots of herbs and spices, they were just a little less bouncy than I hoped for.
The dish looked very much like my friend’s kafta batata, and seemed like vegetables were just cut differently.
Kafta batata had sliced eggplant and sliced potato, layered in nicely.
Dishes were a little salty, but good with the great fluffy rice that accompanied the meal.
DH had the Samak stew, a tomato sauce-based salmon stew, but the salmon was overcooked.
On the side, I was intrigued by an array of Lebanese and Syrian smoothie, made with milk, syrup and pine nuts, with either berries, strawberries and mango.
I had the strawberry one called Ashta-B-Fraze, and it was quite perfumey, light and smooth; I wonder if they used rose syrup.
My friend had the Lebanese soda with date, and was really tasty.
My curiosity around some of their other dishes are still burning strong, so I will be back to try them the next time I am in Portland!