Lebanese restaurants are a godsend when you're entertaining vegetarians or vegans; they're often nice enough for a “nice” dinner, they don't sneak meat into everything, the hospitality is usually wonderful, and the food is genuinely great.
It gets old, though, eating the same pile of five mezze: hummus, babaghannoush, mutabbal, tabouleh and falafel. They vary in quality and quantity, but other than the occasional foray into foul mudammas, the menu is pretty much set.
Not at Zena's, the well-known, popular Lebanese restaurant tucked across the street from the insanity of the Village at Orange's
parking lot. There are several options to tempt a vegetarian, the best
of which is a plate of cauliflower that has been dropped into hot oil
until the florets separate and take on a burnished-coffee color; they're
seasoned with salt and lemon when they come out of the fryer, then rushed
to the table.
This arnabeet is hard to resist; paired with the generous
basket of bread on the table and a small tub of tahini (sesame sauce),
you could make a lunch out of this and a lemon- and olive oil-dressed
salad. They're also contagious; one table gets an order of them, and the
scent wafting through the room makes another table decide it has
room for just one more dish.