The first dish that went around the long tables was the jeweled rice and chicken, whose bullion-esque flavors were enhanced and almost sweetened (more so) by the fruity Kefraya Rosee Du Chateau 2010, Lebanon wine. Along came the raw lamb kibbeh dish, which instantly became the favorite of several.

At first, I did not know what to expect from eating raw, red meat, however, once it touched my tongue, the thick, ground texture of the lamb immediately found my welcoming palate. The flavor, which was not as pungent as eating cooked meat, translated subtly to generate a fleshy aroma. Eating this dish alongside the jeweled rice was nice, as the aforementioned rice’s sweetness complemented the subtlety of the lamb.

Mazza Restaurant Owner Ali Sabbah.
Mazza Owner Ali Sabbah makes a speech to his guests expressing all of his appreciation and reminiscing on the history of his restaurant along with his plans for the future. Photo credit: Talyn Sherer.

The plates continued to load up with food, and the fatoosh salad, with mixed greens, retained a sweet-and-sour type of dressing. In addition to the raw lamb kibbeh, a pumpkin kibbeh also went around, which had hints of ginger, and a more cake-like texture than the lamb—it was cut into squares like brownies, with vegetables melted into the center of a dark-brown crust.

At about this point, 9th and 9th Mazza Manager Sam Starr poured the second wine glass, the Kefraya Comte de M, Lebanon. This red wine was very dry, with berry notes buried deep within the flavor.

With a spoon to a wine glass, the room fell silent so Sabbah could take a moment to thank everyone for coming to the dinner. He explained that the reason that Mazza held this event was to demonstrate the diverse cuisine that Middle Eastern culture has to offer, and to evince future tastes that Mazza will cultivate.

He spoke of Mazza having started as a small sandwich shop in the 15th and 15th area, and pointed out the immense growth of the restaurant since then, which has given him and the Mazza staff the momentum to continue to flourish and bring in more specialties.

Roasted quails circulated hence, which was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The crispy skin housed a poultry flavor that is even more deep than chicken; it reminded me of dark turkey meat, but its juices lent it the tangy character of chicken.

Eggplant and zucchini, stuffed with rice, also found their way to my seat, and their flavors reminded me of Spanish rice and stuffed peppers, but with the addition of a cinnamon-like spice. Once the cow tongue went around, that’s when the diners became a bit more speculative!

It was a bit thick to cut with a fork, but once being chewed, SLUG photographer Talyn Sherer put it perfectly, saying that it reminded him of a tender pot roast, and tasted exactly like what it is: beef. My absolute favorite of the night was the fried chicken livers.

Having had a negative experience with chicken liver before, Mazza changed my mind, as theirs was not too iron-tasting (just right, in fact), and the texture was not silty at all—the taste was thick and zesty, and exploded with a peppery flavor.

The prawns were cooked to perfection—within the shells, the meat of this delicacy seemed to have melted into a cheese-like substance that was otherworldly. The final glass of wine came around, which was my favorite: the Chateau Musar 2004, Lebanon.

I had had the utmost pleasure of sitting next to Steven Rosenberg, the owner of Liberty Heights Fresh, who demonstrated the beauty of this wine’s legs, which stuck to the side of the glass adamantly. This wine tasted like a grape eruption with a tart sting on my tongue that traveled up through my nose.

The highlight liqueur of the evening was the Arak: a cloudy-white, anise-based beverage that, despite its color, tasted strongly of black licorice. It was simultaneously hearty and refreshing!

Sabbah took another opportunity to thank their Head Chef, Jinnan Abu-Ismail, without whom he said Mazza would not be possible. Ironically, though there were a lot of meat dishes that went around, Abu-Ismail is vegan, and she grinds all of Mazza’s spices by hand.

The guests finished off the evening with dessert, which consisted of Samantha’s Special Pudding, whose prunes and caramel flavor complemented the flaky Cashew Baklava bites—with a hint of orange sweetness in the center—par excellence. Mazza continues to be a purveyor of not only Middle Eastern food, but high-caliber cuisine in every facet of the dinner table. If you haven’t been by either location, be sure to do so soon. You can find out more about Mazza at For more photos of the event, click here!