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An Arabian night is a feast for our senses; Eating out: Taste of Arabia.

Byline: MARTIN NEAL

"THE beauty of Arabian food is that it's there in front of you and you just dig in."

That was the advice of Taste of Arabia owner Mustafa as brought out our scrumptious-looking Lebanese feast - and who were we to argue? What's more, the meal tasted every bit as gorgeous as it looked.

We weren't the only ones to think that either. A customer on a nearby table was quick to offer a glowing testimonial of the vegetarian dishes.

Taste of Arabia, fomerly Byblos, in Borough Road, Middlesbrough, has undergone quite a transformation since opening as a humble pizzeria.

Its recent upgrade included a complete revamp of the menu to incorporate a wide variety of traditional Lebanese dishes.

You can choose a pizza or a parmo if you like - but why would you with such a large and tasty array of Arabian dishes to sample? Eager to sample a taste of the Middle East after a hard day's work, our group couldn't believe our eyes as the beautifully-prepared feast began to take shape on our table.

We did as Mustafa said and had a bit of this and a bit of that and it went down a treat.

The first dishes we tried were the kebby makliya - minced lamb croquettes with cracked wheat and a tahini sauce - and some delicious falafel.

From there we moved on to sample the humus and baba ghanouge (baked aubergine blended with tahini, yoghurt and garlic) with some freshly baked flat bread.

The pepper-filled shawarma and minced lamb were a particular delight but the highlight for me came in the form of a mountain of rice - some cooked with lamb stock and the rest with chicken stock - surrounded by chicken tawouk (basically the Lebanese answer to chicken tikka) and with a generous selection of kafta kebabs on top.

Alongside it came a bowl of spicy and tasty vegetables in gravy - the ideal foil to the drier dishes on the table.

The Arabian salad, complete with chillies and olives, added to the variety.

The premises aren't licenced, although customers can bring their own drinks, so we washed down our meal with glasses of refreshing mango juice.

I first experienced Lebanese food on a trip to Jordan where I learned it tasted like something you might find in a kitchen shared by Indian and Mediterranean cooks who decided to experiment a little.

The freshly brewed Arabian coffee, consumed in the comfort of the corner settee, fuelled more memories of that holiday.

We left with Mustafa telling us how he wished the Middlesbrough community a happy Ramadan and joyful Eid, and with the knowledge it wouldn't be long before we returned.

Our order Arabian feasts, including dessert of the day, are available for parties of eight or more at pounds 15 per head.

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CAPTION(S):

RICE MOUNTAIN: Chicken tawouk and kafta kebabs along with a bowl of spicy vegetables A PIZZERIA THAT GREW UP: Taste of Arabia, transformed from the former Byblos
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2011
Words:497
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