A Mediterranean Delicacy

. November 13, 2012.

A Mediterranean delicacy
La Marsa boasts tasty options for all ages
by Katy M. Clark
La Marsa
301 S. State St.

Hours: Open 7 days a week, 10am-10pm

“No hoummous,” my husband implored me with a smile. “I’ll smell it on you for three days.”

I smirked at him from across the table. My family of four had just been seated at La Marsa, a Mediterranean restaurant, and we were perusing the menu. Besides hoummous, there is a bounty of Middle Eastern delicacies from which to choose. Having been raised in Southern California, I confess, I do not know baba ghannooj from tabbouli.

A coastal feel

La Marsa is a Metro Detroit-based chain of six Middle Eastern restaurants. The Ann Arbor location opened late last summer at the corner of Liberty and State in a spot previously occupied by Cosi. Named for a coastal town in northeastern Tunisia, the restaurant exudes a seaside feel, with sand-colored walls, potted palms and pictures of ocean scenes hung above the tables and booths.

“They have chicken nuggets!” my eight-year-old son declared. “I want chicken nuggets, too,” my four-year-old chimed in. There went my grand plans of exposing the kids to Mediterranean cuisine.

Our server brought a basket of warm pita bread with garlic sauce to enjoy as we absorbed everything on the menu. The pitas were small and soft, the garlic sauce strong and tangy—too tangy for my kids.

The menu at La Marsa includes appetizers
like baba ghannooj (char-grilled eggplant blended with tahini, lemon and garlic), soups, salads and traditional dishes like koshary, an Egyptian dish layered with pasta, rice, lentil, onions, garlic, tomato sauce and seasonings.

Savory suggestions

I asked the server for suggestions. He recommended David Basha, a dish of ground lamb, onions and parsley sautéed with tomatoes and mushrooms. I selected rice and lentil soup to complete my meal. My husband liked the sound of Shish Tawook: marinated and charbroiled chicken breast kabob, with rice and lentil soup. He also got tabbouli, a salad of parsley, tomatoes, scallions, cracked wheat and olive oil.

The kids happily ordered chicken nuggets and fries. Other items from the kids’ menu include chicken tenders with rice or fries or the veggie combo with hoummous, tabbouli, falafel and fries. Kids’ menu items are $4.99.

The tabbouli and lentil soup were served first. The taste of lemon was predominant in the tabbouli, which I liked, and the strong flavor of parsley took a backseat to the salad’s other ingredients. Overall, it was fresh and zesty. The lentil soup was subtle and yummy.

The David Basha looked like a stir-fry with meatballs. I tasted mostly lamb and tomato among other seasonings and liked the crunch added by slivered almonds sprinkled on top. My husband enjoyed his Shish Tawook, particularly the taste of the chargrilled chicken.

Meanwhile, in a minor blip, my son and daughter received one kids’ meal for the two of them. Thankfully, the serving was large enough to split between two plates. Neither one could finish their portion.

Indeed, all servings were generous and we were laden down with boxes of leftovers. We vowed to skip dessert until a complimentary plate of baklava was presented, drizzled with honey and dusted with crushed pistachios. My son took to the honey while I liked the flaky dough.

As we left, the manager thanked me for bringing our family to dine there. I should thank La Marsa for our family’s enjoyable experience with Mediterranean cuisine. Now if only I could get the kids to try some tabbouli.

The Short Course
Kid-friendly: Yes
To avoid wait: The restaurant is large, but you could wait if there are events at nearby Hill Auditorium or Michigan Theater
Noise level: High
Bathroom amenities: No changing tables
High chairs? Yes
Got milk? Yes
Kids’ menu? Yes
Anything healthy for kids? The Veggie Combo with hummus, tabbouli and falafel
Food allergy concerns? Some dishes may contain a blend of olive and peanut oil. Talk with your server if allergic to peanut oil.

Katy M. Clark lives with her family in Saline. She blogs at www.experiencedbadmom.blogspot.com