7944 S Mason Montgomery Rd
Mason, OH 45040
Mon – Fri: 11:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Saturday: 5:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Sunday: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Appetizers: $5 – $8
Flat Bread: $6.50
Entrees: $15 – $23
Drinks: $2 – $4
I’ve been stalking Phoenician Taverna ever since I saw the sign first go up on the building several months ago. I’ve gone by hundreds of times waiting for an open sign to be lit up, but alas it never was.
It was only when going to eat at the nearby Sichuan Bistro that I finally decided to walk up to Phoenician Taverna and stare awkwardly through the front window to see just where it was in the process of opening.
It was finished and they had been open for a week.
In the first month alone, we went back at least 3 times.
Upon entering, guests are greeted with a few high tables and a full bar stocked to the ceiling with wine. The kitchen is open and alongside the dining area, where guests can watch meat roasting in an expensive looking rotisserie broiler. In the back, the tile floor begins again and the bathrooms are tucked, with granite counter tops and sinks, just outside in the hall.
The wine menu is leather bound and looked to have an excellent selection. The dining menu is several pages long, so there are lots of items to try. We decided on this particular trip to get the falafel to start, Mashawai Kafta and Shwarma as entrees and for dessert Traditional Baklava and Halawet Jibne with Lebanese Coffees.
Bread and flavored olive oil were brought out first – both made in-house. The bread is thin and puffy, but not very absorbent so it didn’t really soak up the oil very well. It had a good flavor to it and I honestly enjoyed it more than the oil they brought to dip it in which was a little underwhelming. The Falafel are coarsely ground chickpeas with leeks, garlic, cilantro, parsley, spices and herbs shaped into little rounds and then fried – like a chickpea fritter. They’re served with a side of tomatoes, radishes, scallions and tahini sauce. Once our Falafels came out, the bread made a good pocket to hold the falafel and to top with the tahini sauce and vegetables. Everything here is homemade – a feature that is definitely appreciated.
My Mashawi Kafta, or beef and lamb kebabs, came with grilled vegetables, rice pilaf, and a garlicy lemon green vegetable sauce. I tried a bit of each item individually and everything was savory and tasty. The meat was tender and juicy, the vegetables were grilled perfectly and the rice was flavored very nicely. I noticed the sauce in particular was really potent so I added just a touch of it to the meat and grilled vegetables, then tried another bite. This was when I fell in love. The garlicy lemon sauce on the meat and vegetables was simply amazing – I couldn’t get enough!
The Shwarma was slices of marinated lamb and beef slow cooked on the vertical rotisserie and served with rice and vegetables as well, but with a garlic sauce. The lamb and beef slices were thin and burst with juicy flavor. The vegetables, garlic sauce and rice were perfect plate-mates.
The Bakalava at Phoenician Taverna were some of the best I’ve ever had, and we highly recommend you save room in your stomach and wallet to try them. Two different kinds come out on a long rectangular plate – one had a mild honey flavor and strong pistachio flavor, the other didn’t have many pistachios on it but did have a wonderful burst of orange blossom honey. They’re small but very sweet – perfectly sized with the Lebanese coffee.
The Halawet Jibne was a new item, so we have nothing really to compare it to. These were two sweet cheese crepes filled with ashta – a traditional Lebanese cream. They were very mildly sweet and very creamy.
I’ve mentioned the Lebanese coffees a few times now – but what exactly separates these from regular coffee? The name really references the special method used; extremely finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a pot and served in a small cup where the grounds are allowed to settle. It’s very strong – you may want to also swirl the cup as you drink to prevent ground buildup at the bottom of the cup (or just let it settle and not drink the last sip.) Phoenician Taverna can also add cardamom to the coffee, which is amazing and I think goes well with regular coffee too (and whipped cream!)
The owner of Phoenician Taverna clearly treats this business like it’s his baby – he roams the floor and asks everyone if they enjoy the food and loves chatting with customers and sharing little bits of culture and history of the dishes. For us, he even taught us how to tell our fortunes in the coffee. The rest of the staff was very friendly as well and quick to get us anything we needed.
Verdict: Turkish Food Lovers Rejoice!
Phoenician Taverna is a welcome addition to the Greater Cincinnati ethnic restaurant scene – and is definitely worth a drive to try. It may be hidden in a strip mall but the interior is contemporary and well designed and the food is absolutely fantastic. Perfectly grilled meat and vegetables, delicious baklava and cardamom-flavored Lebanese coffees are all must-trys.
It’s a bit more expensive than the restaurants around it but Phoenician Taverna is also much nicer than many of the others. The owner and staff are all very friendly and able to help explain the menu and offer suggestions. Our servers seemed to be a bit nervous too, but it could just be that they’re new – the restaurant is still very new.