When Tanoreen opened in 1998, it was a ten-table deli that served unique, homestyle Middle Eastern eats from an open kitchen. Chef Rawia Bishara, who owns the place with her daughter Jumana, drew from her Palestinian upbringing, turning out innovative fare that nonetheless remains true to her roots. (She learned from her mother to "color outside of the lines" in cooking, she writes on her website.) Over the past seventeen years, Tanoreen has morphed into one of the city's renowned specialists in Middle Eastern cuisine. Today the Bisharas serve the expected hummus, baba ghanouj, and kebabs, which are still some of the most popular items on the menu. But we go for the more elaborate specialties, like the eggplant Napoleon, the stewed okra, and the kibbe yogurt (lamb and bulgur meatballs stewed in a yogurt-garlic sauce). Fueled by success, Tanoreen has tripled its capacity over the years and added a bar program specializing in lesser-known Lebanese and Moroccan wines, Lebanese beer, and signature cocktails like a pistachio martini. The Bisharas also published a cookbook, Olives, Lemons, & Za'atar, that has given the restaurant an audience that reaches far beyond NYC.
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