Nearly one year after chef Scott Snyder signed the papers for E. Burnside's former Alder Pastry & Dessert space, his French-Arabesque spot Levant is finally ready to swing its doors open. As Snyder promised, an open hearth with a custom wood-fired grill serves as the restaurant's focal point, along with racks of firewood and a sprawling, spider-like overhead light fixture (no exposed Edison bulbs here).
Snyder's "Arabesque" cuisine borrows from Turkish, Israeli, Palestinian, and Northern African traditions, featuring ingredients like freekah (a wheat grain that Snyder serves alongside dates and rose-scented duck breast), labneh, chermoula (a spiced marinade), and amba (a pickled-mango condiment). Menus at a series of soft-opening dinners were heavy on small plates — stuffed seared squid, spiced beef tongue served with hummus and an "oxtail cabbage roll," and a chicken liver-filled boreka (puffed pastry). In addition to the aforementioned duck breast, entrees, available in "full" or "half" portions, include a "trio of lamb" served with dried apricot and yogurt; and a chermoula-marinated sturgeon with farro and sunchoke puree.
A nine-item cocktail menu, meanwhile, similarly highlights Middle Eastern spices and flavors — with cardamom, sumac, salep, and tumeric appearing in drinks. (A "Pillow Talk" combines brandy with tumeric, ginger, cardamom, pepper, and saffron honey cream' the "Hammam Echo" is a rye toddy with raki, chamomile, lavender, sumac and salep.) The wine list offers more than 80 options by the bottle — ranging from $30 to $130, with five more available by the half-bottle.