In the animal kingdom of restaurant openings, Mamnoon might be a giraffe—very big, and very quiet. Destination-worthy Middle Eastern restaurants are relatively rare in Seattle, with the delightful excepton of Lebanese Cafe Munir in Loyal Heights. When I spoke with Mamnoon owner Wassef Haroun in advance of the opening, he pointed out that the stakes are particularly high given the location facing Melrose Market, its windows mirroring those of Tamara Murphy's Terra Plata across the street.
"We have a reasonably unique cuisine for the city," says Haroun of his elegant Lebanese, Syrian, and Persian fare. "And we're going to be in an area that's one of the most populated." Capitol Hill Seattle blog has been tracking Mamnoon’s progress in increments, so go check out the full account over there.
Mamnoon opens at 5 tonight, unveiling a menu executed by chef Garrett Melkonian, who worked as executive pastry chef for Tom Douglas Restaurants (he assisted with the recipe development for T-Doug's new Dahlia Bakery Cookbook) as well as other impressive places like The Restaurant Formerly Known As Spring Hill. Haroun says Melkonian is equally adept at both pastry and savory, but we're still eager to see what Mamnoon brings in the dessert department.
Melkonian's new role came with quite an immersion program. He spent a week with both Haroun's mother and his mother in law (wife Racha Haroun is a partner in the restaurant). Then the chef hunkered down for a month with chef and cookbook author Barbara Massad, who helped shape the menu at Mamnoon.
The restaurant is spare in decor, but colorful tabletops and light fixtures rescue it from austerity. A long to-go counter anchors the front of the space, and local barman-turned-spirits-rep (and Sauced scribe) Andrew Bohrer helped design the cocktail list. Haroun promises a full website and menu will go live some time soon.