Taboon Bistro

**** (4 stars)

This hard to find restaurant faces the courtyard in the middle of the twin office buildings at the Universal backlot entrance. There is a lovely outside seating area under the portico.

The extensive menu offers every Mediterranean dish you can think of, and a few oddballs (Philly cheesesteak?)

Servings are generous, to say the least. My Veggie plate would have served two, particularly given the accompanying sides of salad and pickles. The Falafel was a bit dry, and I’ve had better hummus, but the Baba Ghanouj was the best I’ve had.

Taboon Bistro
5911 Turkey Lake Rd
Suite 102
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 720-7664
http://www.yelp.com/biz/taboon-bistro-orlando

ABA Turkish Restaurant

**** (4 stars)

This Turkish restaurant is bustling with locals, so it’s definitely got the stamp of authenticity.

We tried the cold appetizer sample, which was a great assortment. Favorites were the eggplant and the tomato and vegetable mixture. Interestingly, they were served with crusty bread rather than the traditional puffy Lava? Turkish bread.

The hot appetizers we tried included falafel, which was crispier and a different shape that we were used to, and some excellent zucchini pancakes.

We also shared one entree that was an assortment of all the meats, and thought each was very well prepared. The lamb chop was my favorite, as it had a nice char.

Service was friendly and efficient, especially considering the restaurant was completely full.

ABA Turkish Restaurant
325 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 655-9368
http://www.yelp.com/biz/aba-turkish-restaurant-new-york

Paramount Fine Foods

**** (4 stars)

This bright, airy space near the Orlando Eye offers Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food in a fast casual atmosphere. It’s part of a rapidly expanding Canadian chain.

The extensive menu includes pitas, falafel and pizza-like manakeesh. I had a lunch combo veggie wrap consisting of a Zaatar manakeesh (think of a flatbread brushed with Thyme & Sesame olive oil) wrapped around cucumbers, black olives and mint leaves. It was tasty, but the wrapper was pretty sturdy for a wrap. A companion had a falafel sandwich and it was wrapped in conventional pita.

The meal included complimentary pita, which was made in the puffed up Turkish style. You’ll probably want an order of hummus or the dip assortment to accompany it.

That brings us to the absolute highlight of the meal: THE FRIES! These have to be the best fries in Orlando. Crispy–almost crackly–on the outside, and light as air in the middle, served hot and perfectly seasoned. Wow!

During our visit the restaurant was a quick serve concept where you order at a counter, but a hostess seated us and gave us menus. I understand it is transitioning to a full service concept, which will work very well in this space. Our server was very attentive about asking if we wanted refills.

It remains to be seen whether there is going to be enough traffic near the Orlando Eye to justify the large size of this and the many other restaurants in the area, but we certainly enjoyed our meal and would go back. Parking is free in the adjacent structure.

Paramount Fine Foods
8371 International Dr
Ste 60
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 930-8645
http://www.yelp.com/biz/paramount-fine-foods-orlando

Kabul House

***** (5 stars)

I’m new to Afghan cuisine, but I can’t imagine how it can get much better than this.

I wanted to try as many dishes as possible, so I designed my meal around the vegetarian sampler dinner, because it included several items that are also on the appetizer menu. The eggplant, pumpkin and spinach were all delicious, but my favorite was the cauliflower, which was rich and exotically spiced.

Dinner came with lentil soup, which had a nice balance. I also tried the cucumber salad, which was mixed with yoghurt and dill, and went well with several other dishes.

But the real show stopper was the mantoo. These are like little raviolis, filled with a meat and lentil mixture that is rich, exotic, and incredibly complex. I scarfed down every bit.

Kabul House is a cheerful corner restaurant with a modern interior. Service was very friendly and efficient. It’s BYOB, but the have a lovely mint iced tea that I found to be a perfect accompaniment to the meal.

Kabul House
4949 Oakton St
Skokie, IL 60077
(847) 674-3830
http://www.yelp.com/biz/kabul-house-skokie