There are several truths in life that I have come to accept.
- I will never get back the washboard abdomen that I had as a fashion model in my early 20′s.
- I have always had a problem sharing my crayons.
- Trying to blackmail a person who doesn’t make a lot of money is a waste of time and effort.
- I will be well into my 60′s before people who don’t know me stop arguing with me that I am in my late 20′s or that I get Botox injections.
- Until people in the Middle East recognize that there is such a thing as difference of opinion, they will never have peace and civil rest. Forget those political and religious excuses.
- Food is my lover and I will not get a divorce, just a larger kitchen. How is that for monogamy?
For an encore of Lebanese food, my friend and I spent an evening at Kan Zaman in Chicago’s River North — 617 North Wells. We’re talking “real deal” Lebanese goodness from the kitchen. Even the restaurant set-up gives the notion that you are entering an authentic Lebanese establishment. They have cultural-seating dinner tables where you have to take off your shoes and sit on the floor around the table. Due to the overpowering smell of corn chips, my friend and I opted to sit on the other side of the restaurant where people kept their shoes on. Besides, trying to get up from the floor after stuffing yourself pig-on-a-spit style can end up being a laugh session on “America’s Funniest Bloopers.” Fumbling around and falling on the floor, wallowing around like a drunk tossed from the tavern, and having the buttons on your pants popping off are not pleasant scenes.
At Kan Zaman, you can bring your own beverage. With Binny’s being a block away, my friend and I had picked up a bottle of red wine. We started with two appetizers, one vegetarian and one meat. The vegetarian appetizer was baba ghannouj — puréed smoked eggplant dip, blended with garlic, lemon juice and tahini, topped with olive oil. The meat appetizer was a soujouk, which were flavourful beef and lamb sausages served in a spicy tomato sauce. These appetizers came with complimentary pita bread that we used instead of silverware to gobble up the goodies. We also had lentil soup that had no salt in it, but the right amount of spices to make you thankful for not having something in it to raise your blood pressure.
For the entrées, we did one vegetarian entrée and one meat entrée. The vegetarian entrée was a moussakaa, which was so blooming good that I considered becoming a vegetarian — for about one minute. When the recommended meat dish came to the table, seasoned ground beef rolled up in vegetable stuffed cabbage served with yogurt, that all changed. I then knew that I could have the best of both worlds and still have satisfaction. [Kids would not hesitate to eat their vegetables if they were good.] There is a reason my friend and I have done this restaurant more than once and having tried something different this time, we’re going back.
Here is where we go off on a tangent. Chicago seems to be the American centre for hookah pleasure enjoyment. It seems that quite a few restaurants with Middle Eastern flare have added hookahs to their bill of fare. For those who are still bitter over the Chicago ban on smoking in public places, a puff on a hookah may bring you some satisfaction, although not a nicotine fix. As a special with some great appetizers, entrées, and desserts, you get to enjoy taking a toke at Kan Zaman. Now, I doubt that Kan Zaman puts marijuana or opium on the hookahs, perhaps unless you are a special customer, but there were a few individuals getting in their zone after dinner.
For dessert, we had baklava, chocolate cake, and Lebanese tea. I tend to shy away from desserts with nuts in them. Past allergies to non-exotic nuts use to make my cheeks blow up to the point where I looked like a chipmunk. Imagine having that happen when the elders of the family are coming to visit. You know how they love to pinch your cheeks, even when you’re up in age and have grey in your hair or beard like me. However, almonds and pistachios don’t do that, so we had baklava. It’s a shame that we only got two sticks of baklava, but the things were so rich that we didn’t grumble or complain; we just gobbled them down without comment. I must say that I was disappointed with the chocolate cake. When the slice came out with a dainty little icing flower on the top, I knew it didn’t come from the Kan Zaman oven. It wasn’t bad, though. Vain statement: I can do a better chocolate cake because it usually has kahlua and some other special alcoholic ingredient in it. Nevertheless, the desserts went down smoothly with a spiced tea. I am digging red, white, green, black, and herbal teas more an more. And I must credit Kan Zaman for introducing a few more to my palate.
Kan Zaman has live entertainment on Friday nights — well on the Friday nights when we have gone. Just as good as the appetizers, entrées, and desserts, there is belly dancing. There wasn’t any of that “woman popping out of a cake” stuff or wall-to-wall college frat boys shaking beer and singing anthems through belching, hiccuping, and random naughty thoughts. [Why it is some people feel the need to participate in the entertainment, I am baffled. Those who have no rhythm are the quickest to spring from their seats to shake there bums and there were a few who indeed tried to dance with the belly dancer.] The norm for our restaurant jaunts have been to get to the eateries at 6:30, but we went at 8:00 so we could drag dinner out until 9:00 for the main course — I mean live entertainment. Had I not eaten so much and to the point of my usual drunken buzz — oh, I did have wine — I probably would have stood up and attempted a belly roll. [I do have rhythm.] Instead, I did the right thing by sitting in my seat and enjoying the scene knowing that my belly would not growl for at least eight hours.
Are you price-conscious? Don’t worry. Do you like good food? Never fear. Kan Zaman has wonderful prices for the incredibly good food that they serve. I think that after I walked out of Kan Zaman I vowed never to eat another hamburger or hotdog. [I reneged the following Monday by ordering a hamburger from the grill at work. I'm sorry, but the chef on the grill at work is a culinary genie — you will grant you your wish, but you won't get a million dollars unless you win the lottery or blackmail the right person.] At any rate, Kan Zaman is now crammed onto my list of “Best Restaurants in Chicago.”