New-ish, really. Phoenicia introduced Middle Eastern food to downtown Easton back in December. It seemed odd that we hadn’t noticed them, though we generally don’t visit the 100 block of Northampton St. since we stopped going to Phenom in favor of Touch of Thai. We’re pretty sure that their location, two doors down from The Eastonian, had previously been home to Mr. Bread. We noticed an ad for Phoenicia in a recent issue of Lehigh Valley Marketplace magazine and were immediately psyched to check it out. And a Friday or Saturday visit would give us a chance to enjoy some bellydancing. Though that’s never as fun as it should be. More on that later.

They’re currently applying for a liquor license so we did the BYOB thing – my first Granache. The sweetness luckily turned out to be a nice match to the spice of the food. The starter was a great trio of yogurt, herbs in oil, and a spicy/sweet bean dip with a basket of fresh pitas for dipping. We were off to a great start.

My wife had the Shrimp Basha for her app. Perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp which, at a glance, appeared to be battered and fried. The coating was actually a flavorful tahini sauce. We loved these. I ordered the Hommus Shawarma – a big plate of hommus covered with marinated strips of beef. The menu described the beef as “shredded” but it was definitely sliced before it was cooked. It was a bit chewy but i liked the flavor and the textural combination with the hommus worked for me. We were pretty full after these dishes but excited about our entrées.

Here’s where we hit a wall. The waiter brought out two mixed green salads drenched in balsamic vinegar. We weren’t expecting them since we hadn’t seen salads mentioned in the menu, but we’re not ones to waste food so we dug in. In principle, it might seem like a decent palate cleanser to counteract the oiliness of the appetizers. One bite told us we’d made a mistake. The intensity of the vinegar annihilated the lingering goodness of our apps. We’ll be alerting the waitstaff to skip the salads on our next visit.

We weren’t very hungry by the time our entrées arrived, though they looked great. The kabobs were huge and the lamb was tasty. I ordered the falafel. I’d been curious to try it for a while. Disappointing. From what i’ve been told, it should have been crispy on the outside, soft and moist inside. These were really firm and dry – like they’d been fried, refrigerated, and re-fried.

After wrapping our leftovers, our waiter seemed to ignore us for a good ten minutes. I think he thought we weren’t interested in dessert because we didn’t finish our entrées. He was somewhat correct but we wanted to hear what they offered regardless. He had only a few options available due to the previous days’ blizzard conditions. (They must have had limited access to their kitchen or something.) The most enticing choice was a filo/sweet cheese/honey combination. We were so glad we chose it to end the meal on an up note.

About the bellydancing. It just doesn’t work if the dancer tries to interact with the diners. Most of her activity was out of my sight line, but my wife gave me steady updates about how she was trying to get men to stand up and dance with her. That’s when the sense of dread set in. Even with half a bottle of wine in me, I was not comfortable with a quasi-sexual interaction in front of my wife and a roomful of strangers. Call me crazy. I kept shoving food in my mouth when she came by the table, hoping that she’d make the smart decision not the pester a patron neck deep in hommus. And people were sticking dollars in her waistband! There are just too many pressures!

We’ll definitely head back to Phoenicia armed with a good deal of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. I’m excited to have another ethnic option downtown – I just hope they can tighten things up a bit to compete with Easton’s A-list spots and stick around for a long time.