A few minutes early for dinner with my friend Jennifer, I was lazily scanning the menu board when the dessert section grabbed my attention. They upped the ante with the four varieties of crepes available: Nutella; Nutella with banana; ashta (thick cream), rose syrup and pistachios; and ashta, banana and honey.
The cashier and I already had been chatting for a few minutes.
“I’m definitely getting one of those,” I warned him.
Luckily, Jennifer arrived to keep me from ordering only dessert for dinner. As we considered the options, the menu turned into a blur of unfamiliar words including shawarma, shish-tawook and shish-kufta.
“So, what’s popular?” we asked.
Chicken shawarma, he responded, and lamb kebabs. In fact, the kebabs were so popular as a special, he said, they just added it permanently to the menu. It made the choice easy. I ordered the chicken shawarma platter, mild (you can order it as hot as you like it), with hummus (chickpea dip), while Jennifer opted for the kebabs and baba ghannoush (roasted eggplant dip).
While I enjoy unusual foods, they’re often hard to find in Augusta. Laziza offers one of the few truly Mediterranean options in the Augusta area. Located in Evans Towne Center, it specializes in fresh Middle Eastern kebabs (lamb plus other varieties, like shish-tawook, which is chicken, or shish-kufta, which is ground beef), falafel (chickpea fritters) and the popular shawarma.
Shawarma is sometimes referred to as the fast food of the Middle East. Usually chicken, it’s marinated in spices, then slowly roasted on a vertical spit (Laziza’s is proudly displayed front and center, just behind its counter.) Other options at Laziza include salads, soups and starters; the platters, which are served with rice and pita bread, and your choice of hummus or baba ghannoush; traditional wraps including gyro and falafel; the aforementioned crepes, and baklava; and a short kids’ menu offering kebabs or falafel.
Inside the bright, open restaurant with its mustard-colored walls, we settled ourselves down at a two-top, and barely had time to catch up before our food arrived.
“Yep, we try to be fast,” said our cashier with a grin.
Accompanied by a bowl of grilled pita, each huge platter felt like a feast. I’d never had baba ghannoush – to be honest, anything with eggplant in it tends to scare me off – but the dip looked very much like my hummus, a creamy mound sprinkled with parsley and tomato. Jennifer let me try a taste, and the bite of the warm pita –all grilled and smoky – with the tart and fresh baba ghannoush was perfect. In fact, I enjoyed it more than my own perfectly respectable garlicky hummus, which was earthy with chickpeas and rich with olive oil and paprika.
The chicken shawarma was accompanied by a garlic “hard” sauce – suitable for spreading on the meat. I tasted it with and without the sauce.
By itself, the chicken was tender and succulent, mild – just like I wanted it – and incredibly flavorful from a mixture of spices. I’m usually pretty good at being able to identify the spice in my food, but this stumped me – all I know is that the mixture was delicious and very Middle Eastern. The garlic sauce boosted the flavor and also slightly tempered the spice.
I swapped Jennifer some of my chicken for one of her lamb kebabs. I think lamb is one of those meats that you either like or don’t like – I happen to enjoy it – and this preparation, which seems to involve rolling or marinating the lamb cubes in a mixture of spices (again, hard to identify but oh so good), then roasting over an open flame, gave the lamb a spicy crust and tender interior. It came with a thin tahini sauce, a mixture of yogurt and cucumber, on the side that both Jennifer and I felt overpowered the meat.
Accompanied by the rice, which was mixed with short pieces of noodle and sprinkled with parsley, it was a big meal, and I even had enough left to bring a small box home. But even though we both were full, it was easy to convince Jenn to go for a crepe with me. Our first choice – the ashta with rose syrup and pistachios – wasn’t available because they were out of the thick cream, so we went with choice No. 2, the Nutella with sliced bananas.
The crepe, when it arrived, was glorious, a golden triangle crisscrossed with hot fudge and stuffed with bananas and the hazelnut spread. We dived in with fresh forks, and the creamy Nutella oozed out dreamily as we cut into it. And the first bite? Imagine a warm chocolate bar, flavored with banana, wrapped inside a thin, thin pancake. As far as desserts go, it was definitely worth the price and the calories.
When I brought my leftovers home, my husband devoured the contents, then promptly asked where his crepe was. I give the restaurant fair warning – we’re coming back, so get your crepes ready.
ON THE MENU
WHERE: Laziza Mediterranean Grill, 4272 Washington Road, Evans
HOURS: Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to
9 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
SECOND HELPING: (706) 504-4303, lazizagrill.com or find it on Facebook