Gaza is full of Middle Eastern cafes slinging hummus, tabouleh, and grilled meats. In fact, I have yet to see a restaurant here that is NOT full of mezze and kebabs. No Tequila Sushi Boom Boom in these parts. With so many restaurants serving so many of the same things, it comes down to the freshness of ingredients, the breadth of menu and the level of service to determine the best of the bunch. And Matoug might be it.
Spend a lot of time on the first page of the menu. Hummus and baba ghanuj are as good as any around town, served with a slick of olive oil. A plate of stewed tomatoes with onions and vegetables – Turkish Salad – is addictively salty and a bit saucier than most of the dishes you’ll find in these parts.
Pickled mushrooms look tired but are as light and bright as if they’d been swimming in fresh lemons all day, and Gaza doesn’t shy away from spice: the Daqah Gazawiyeh (Gaza Salad) is a piquant mix of tomatoes, onions, parsley and chili peppers. Even the pickles have a kick to them.
Rice Matoug is another local specialty – a mound of rice topped with vegetables, beef and slivered almonds. The rice is coated in cinnamon; the dish is perfect… sweet, salty, crunchy, soft, tied together with a beefy funk. Matoug serves chicken in any number of ways – whole birds served with rice and french fries, chicken kebabs, grilled breasts – and a mixed grill plate will take care of you and your friends… and the table next to you… and their friends. The fried nuggets of minced beef known as kibbeh, arrive piping hot, with a crisp exterior and well-seasoned meat inside.
There is dessert here, but I dare you to be hungry enough to need it.
(All food porn courtesy of Sebastian Rich.)Matoug Restaurant 54 Omar Elmokhtar St Gaza Tel: 2826245