Originally printed in the September 2018 issue of Produce Business.
Ancient ingredients and grandmother’s recipes create enticing dishes.
With flavors taking diners around the world, Suraya sits as an oasis in the middle of Philadelphia’s busy Fishtown neighborhood. This market and café, restaurant and outdoor garden tenders Lebanese cuisine as well as other delicacies, and was recently named as 2018 Best Restaurant of the Year by Philadelphia magazine.
The restaurant was created by Nathalie Richan and Roland Kassis (siblings) of Café La Maude and Greg Root and Nick Kennedy of ROOT restaurant + wine bar. Suraya is named after the much-beloved grandmother of Nathalie and Roland, who raised them both in Beirut, Lebanon.
Stepping through the door of Suraya conjures up expectations of an exotic, special encounter, and the restaurant’s staff works hard to deliver on that promise. “We strive for the perfect dining experience with each guest — including the best culinary and best hospitality experience they’ve had,” says Root.
Produce is a crucial component of the restaurant’s food and makes up about 40 percent of the menu. “Produce is enormously important to us,” says Root. “Much of our menu is produce driven.”
The restaurant spends approximately $8,000 per week on produce from a variety of suppliers. “We look for the freshest and most local product possible,” says Root. “Some of our regular providers include Lancaster Farm Fresh (Lancaster, PA), Riverwards (Philadelphia), John Vena Inc. (Philadelphia) and Baldor (Bronx, NY).
Suraya’s Middle East roots, combined with the chef’s unique flair, result in a wide variety of produce components including pomegranates, chilies, mushrooms, grape leaves and a plethora of fresh herbs. Though the menu remains fairly consistent throughout the year, there is some variation. “We do some seasonal changes to a few dishes,” says Root.
Medley Of Taste
Dining at Suraya offers a kaleidoscope of dishes and flavors, best ordered and shared with friends to enjoy the maximum experience. The Cold Mezza options include: a traditional fresh hummus; a tasty, lightly charred Baba Ganoush finished with pomegranate seeds; a Muhammara roasted red pepper and walnut dip seasoned with chilies, cumin and pomegranate; and Labne, the typical strained yogurt dish finished with za’atar herbs, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and mint.
Produce particularly stands out in the Taboule chopped parsley salad and Fattouch, blending chopped raw vegetables with toasted pita. Samke Nayyeh is comprised of raw yellowtail and is complemented with chives, parsley, garlic, lemon, jalapeno and labne. The hot Mezza includes the traditional Fried Kibbeh beef and bulger dumplings served with a mint cucumber yogurt. Fatar Meshwi contains savory wild mushrooms grilled and served with a cilantro yogurt. Batata Harra features crispy potatoes with long hots, garlic, lemon and cilantro.
Suraya’s meat, fowl and seafood dishes continue to embrace produce components. The ground beef Kafta Kebab is seasoned with cumin, mint, parsley and onion and served with hummus, charred onion, tomato and pepper. Kawarma, a baharat rubbed lamb grilled and slow roasted, is served with a pomegranate cucumber salad and dill yogurt. The Dry Aged Rib Eye is complemented with baba ganoush, charred hakurei turnips and onion, tomato and pepper.
Karus Baladi, a black bass fillet, is marinated in parsley and cilantro and wrapped in a banana leaf for grilling. Samek Harra, a whole grilled dorade, is bathed in a spicy sauce of peppers, tomatoes, walnuts and pine nuts.
Even dessert yields up some produce delights. The Ashta and Rhubarb Verrine layers poached rhubarb in an orange blossom sabayon with a 7 Spice cake and ashta ice cream. The Banana, Tehina and Shamandir melds luscious flavors of charred banana ice cream with candied beets, citrus and crispy kataifi.
Suraya Market, Restaurant & Garden
1528 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
Hours Tues-Thurs 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Sun 5 p.m.-10 p.m.