Evening restaurant review
The sign outside Cedars of Lebanon proudly declares “Since 1981”. A restaurant with almost 30 years history? Not bad. We had been meaning to try the place for years, but never quite manage it for one reason or other. Indeed, when we finally made it through the door about a month ago, the place was so full we gave up that night. The wait for a table was just too long. The place was so popular, “It must be really good!” we thought.
This week found us back down town with hungry bellies. Driving past Cedars of Lebanon, we decided to pull over. Finally, we would give it try. We hoped for a special meal, after all, 30 years in business means something must be right, right?
The restaurant space is quite appealing when you first walk in. Multi-colored carpets cover both floors and walls. Drapes hang elegantly from the ceiling. On our way to the main seating area, we noticed a small sofa, table and hookah pipe. There appeared to be a room full of much the same decor through an alcove. The restaurant space certainly has some charm, and it’s hard to decide where to look first. It would have even more charm with a bit of a spring cleaning. The restaurant was also quite cold, the door seemingly did not close snugly and let in lots of the cold night air.
After ordering a glass of Ksara Prieure ($6.95) we started by splitting an order of the Falafel ($5.45):
The appetizer consisted of three largish falafel balls submerged in a chick pea sauce. We had conflicting views on this dish. Wendi really enjoyed it. I found it overly saucy, the falafel was floating in what could best be described as a runny hummus. It was almost as if the falafel had been pre-fried and then reheated when ordered. The falafel didn’t have the crunchy texture (for me at least) of being just fried and I found them a little stodgy. The flavors were pleasant enough though. They also come with a pleasingly large basket of warmed pita bread.
At Cedars of Lebanon each entree comes with your choice of of salad or lentil soup. Wendi chose the salad:
The salad was adequate, fresh and dressed simply. I chose the lentil Soup:
Once I added a little salt to this dish, it was also perfectly fine. Neither was exceptional, nor were they poor.
Wendi’s entree was the Moussaka ($15.15):
This was served with a side of plain rice and vegetables. After a few bites, Wendi decided she wasn’t too impressed. The dish was not too far removed from a can of tomatoes simmered and poured over some simple vegetables. Wendi also mentioned the menu claimed the meal had chick peas, of which she found two in total. We both found the dish bland and very overpriced at $15.
In fact, at this point, I had my suspicions the vegetables were frozen or tinned, the rubbery mushrooms a sure give away. The vegetables lacked any real flavor or enjoyable texture. Neither of us took more than a few bites of our side orders of veg.
We had higher hopes for my choice, the Chicken Pastilla ($18.45):
Noted on the menu as their most popular dish, I fancied my chances of receiving something tasty. Again the entree came with a side of rice and vegetables. This dish was somewhat better. A sweet cinnamon-flavored sauce coated chicken pieces wrapped up in fillo pastry.
The pastry was extremely oily and somewhat soggy. I am not sure if this is traditional, but I would have preferred a crispier less mushy pastry. Whilst the filling was generally pleasing, it did become cloying and overly sweet after a while. I didn’t really touch my side dish of vegetables after having tried Wendi’s earlier. The dish was certainly an improvement over Wendi’s, but again it was overpriced and frankly mediocre.
A little chicken, plain rice, and some less-than-fresh veggies is not a bargain at almost $20. Indeed, the overall pricing of the meal rankled heavily (Wendi’s note – I was just upset because I felt like I could have cooked mine myself, and I can NOT cook well at all!). Two glasses of wine, one appetizer, and two entrees with tax and tip totalled almost $75.
A general feeling that the restaurant could possibly be living off past glories slowly emerged. The awards from years gone by on the walls, the slightly worn ambiance, the single waitress, who also appeared to be the hostess, all pointed to the fact that Cedars of Lebanon had probably seen better days.
I think more attention should be paid to the competition, which has grown considerably over the years. The range of diverse dining options in the valley continues to grow. Both myself and Wendi considered the fact that there were only eight people in the restaurant the entire time we were there. We both knew that not far away Mazza was packed full, as it is every night.
I really wanted to like Cedars of Lebanon. We both did. It serves food we love when done well, and from our own previous failed attempt at visiting, it’s clearly popular with a lot of people. Sadly, based on this visit, we won’t be rushing back.
I am not aware of a website for Cedars of Lebanon, it is located at 152 E 200 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.