Local Flavor: Laziza's Lebanese entrees are fragrant, spicy pleasures in Kent

Local Flavor: Laziza's Lebanese entrees are fragrant, spicy pleasures in Kent

Laziza Mediterranean restaurant in Kent offered cozy respite from a cold winter's night recently, as my husband and I indulged in spicy and delicious Lebanese dishes.

The spacious, two-story restaurant is celebrating a decade in business this month.

My husband, Steve, and I sat downstairs on the same floor with the posh-looking bar with its purple Laziza sign and red bows on the back of its seats. We also had a good view of the multiple niches where the restaurant displays Middle Eastern collectibles ranging from a decorative hookah or waterpipe, to a sword in a gold, tasseled sheath. 

We started out with drinks. Steve chose a Gentleman's Cosmo ($8), a sweet concoction made with Maker's Mark, Disaronno Amaretto, fresh lemon juice and cranberry juice. I decided on a Tilla Malbec from Mendozza, Argentina ($8), anticipating how nicely it would go with a beef selection. The restaurant has recently redone its extensive drink menu, which includes signature martinis, hand-crafted cocktails, wines, beers and dessert drinks.

Delicious appetizers started our meal off with flair, most notably a pound of pan-seared mussels sautéed with peppers and onions, tossed in a delectable orange-colored sauce with a sweetness that comes from roasted coconut sauce.

Chef Cole Macken makes his special sauce a day in advance and adds sun-dried tomatoes after he tosses the mussels, owner Michael Awad said.

"I'll tell you, people drink that stuff. It's awesome," he said of the mouthwatering broth, which customers dip into with its accompanying crostini.

We also enjoyed an appetizer of baba ghanoush, fire-roasted eggplant blended with garlic, tahini and lemon juice ($8). The traditional Lebanese appetizer came with pita bread but we also added freshly grilled, warm naan bred ($3), a thicker, more pillowy bread choice.

Awad and his wife, Nicole, whose Laziza was the first restaurant to open in Kent's downtown redevelopment in 2012, formerly owned Main Street Continental Grill, among other restaurants, in Kent.

Awad, who is of Palestinian descent, conceived Laziza with predominantly Lebanese fare, as his wife is of Lebanese descent.

"Between her and my mother-in-law, the majority of the menu was created around them," Awad said of his wife and mother-in-law, Antoinette Jabbour.

He and his wife run the restaurant as a family affair, with Nicole tending bar on a recent Wednesday night while Awad and their sons worked a party upstairs. Nadim, 19, is a server and Ibrahim, 16, is a bus boy.

The restaurant does a lot of catering and special events, as well as feeding the Kent State University football team regularly, Awad said.

I opted for some more comfort food for dinner with a cup of lentil soup ($5). The texture was similar to that of split pea soup. The warm and spicy dish is a Palestinian offering, said Awad, who uses a traditional family recipe from his late father.

The spiciness comes from a Lebanese seven-spice blend, which most heavily features cumin, for the soup, Awad said.

The Lebanese seven-spice blend, also called "baharat," the Arabic word for spices, also made my beef shawarma entree ($20) exciting. This fragrant-smelling dish features spiced beef with caramelized onions over basmati rice, served with olive oil-sautéed green beans.

Laziza's beef shawarma started out with a sweet taste, followed by quite a kick with its spicy aftertaste, a sensation I enjoyed. Its blend of spices features cumin, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg and whole cloves, according to Awad.

I ordered my beef shawarma medium rare, and Steve did the same for his beef kebabs entree, which features chargrilled beef tenderloin skewered with bell peppers and onions. His dish also was served with basmati rice, with a side of zucchini and squash.

Steve, who enjoyed the grilled flavor, said the meat was well-seasoned and succulent.

Our bill for the evening came out to $88 before tax and tip. Steve and I agreed that it was fun dining on Lebanese food brought to an elevated level at Laziza, a restaurant that's both comfortable and upscale with its white linens and rolled silverware. We'll be going back to explore more of the menu, which includes steaks, seafood, pasta, burgers and Mediterranean wraps.

Food and arts and writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com.

Place: Laziza

Address: 195 Erie St., Kent

Hours: 3 to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday; 3 to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Phone: 330-677-7000

Reservations: accepted

Carryout: yes

Delivery: Via Doordash

Information: yourlaziza.com, yourlaziza on Facebook