Saturday, January 19, 2013
La Shish Detroit, MI
Detroit, MI has the world's largest arabic speaking population outside of the Middle East. Yes that's culturally interesting, a growing population that according to Time Magazine is bringing prosperity to an area many thought (and still believe) was in terminal decline. No less a Detroit citizen than Henry Ford himself recruited thousands of Lebanese and Yemenis and Arabic speakers from the crumbling, defunct Ottoman Empire. Today descendants of those workers and a continuing stream of new immigrants bring their culture and traditions and most importantly foods to winter's very shore in Detroit.
What that history means for a food focused traveler like me is a plethora of Middle Eastern (many Lebanese focused) to choose from.
Tonight we ventured to La Shish, a very casual halal restaurant. The original La Shish was a popular Dearborn area chain for years until a strange collection of accusations -- reported crimes and blood money and tax evasion caused the chain to close (and the original owner to flee the country). Just last year a new owner bought the restaurant, the logo, the recipes and re-opened a Michigan favorite.
La Shish is a hole in the wall. Some of our large group for dinner got very quiet as they walked in glancing at the TVs, paper napkins, and the "gentleman's club" next door. Once the food started coming out there was little cause for concern. LA Shish makes fresh hot pita from a wood fired oven in the back and offers all of the usual starters and dips -- creamy smooth hummus, lamb stuffed grape leaves scented with cumin and coriander and perhaps cinnamon, crisp lemony salads, tabouli of bright green parsley. Because we were a large group we opted for one of the extravagant combo platters. The flaming tower -- which although delicious was no tower at all but a massive serving plate covered with rice, shwarma, ground lamb "sausages"and beef kebabs among other treats perfectly seasoned and a delicious foil to La Shish's vibrant, aggressive, delicious, garlic sauce.
For Detroit La Shish is one of many, in any other city La Shish would be on every best of list.