Portland Lebanese Restaurant KARAM

Most of my friends know I am omnivore when it comes to food.  Seriously, I like and eat EVERYTHING.Arak Cocktail But I cannot for the life of me think when was the last time I have had Lebanese food.  I don’t know much about the cuisine, so I figured trying foreign flavors through a three-course prix-fixe dinners menu, thanks to Portland June Dining Month, as the great way to begin.  First, as I expected, Karam Restaurant’s three-course meal offered just a few choices for each course.  This makes it easy to choose without  wondering  if you made a good decision.  Although the friendly maître d (aka: owner) at Karam was more than willing to guide us towards delicious choices and really was trying to make our experience one to remember.


We were just at Departure for some cocktails so we weren’t too interested in more booze.  But when madame maître d told me about her Arak cocktail, the Lebanese ouzo-like aperitif, I had to try one.  It was incredibly refreshing. I enjoyed it throughout the whole meal as it complemented the flavorful  dishes we ordered.


To start we selected dolmades, veggie stuffed grape leaves.  The five giant dolmades were served warm with a light tahini sauce for dipping.  So tangy, lemony and good, they were obviously homemade.  We also ordered the Makale, a roasted vegetable plate of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions with more tahini sauce.  Delicious!  Hard to tell in the photo, but the eggplant was incredible.  It was the best eggplant I have ever had. Perfectly cooked, not mushy or tough.  The favor was rich with olive oil and salt yet not too heavy.  I could have just had another plate of eggplant and called it good.


What we didn’t order, but comes with every entree, was a little green salad.  It was nice, but uninspired.  My guess is they think most Americans like a salad with their meal.  Probably true.

Goat Dish at Karam in Portland

Goat Bil Riz at Karam


I went for it and ordered the Goat Bil Riz a stew like goat dish with carrots and potatoes, served with basmati rice to soak up the wonderful broth.  The flavor was of gamey lamb and the meat was tender, but a little sinewy for the average American taste.  I loved it because I know sinew and fat are often where the favor is.  We were so full by this time, I took over half of it home.

Portland Lebanese Salmon dish with beautiful women

Lebanese Salmon

Lesley ordered a salmon dish called Samke Harra.  She liked it but it had this weird red hot sauce on top that we couldn’t get our taste buds around.  She ended up scrapping the sauce off.  More grilled veggies and tahini accompanied the dish so we felt compelled to bring most of it home.

My goat dish as leftovers a day later was even more delicious than at the restaurant.  I just missed the Arak drink to complement it.


Knafe Dessert


We had dessert but I have no paradigm to understand what we ate.  Ok, maybe I’m not an omnivore, as I generally don’t prefer sweets. Dessert chocolate Karam’s desserts took sweet to a whole new level.  One was called Knafe: shredded filo filled with sweetened cheese topped with rose syrup.
Super sweet, but then add a little goat favor or rose water and you have yourself a dessert you will be pressed not to remember. The owner had also just made a family specialty, the name of which we can’t remember, and brought out a slab big enough to share with the whole restaurant. Two levels of custard, one with chocolate, smothered in a sweet caramel and rose syrup. The waitress is still trying to get the recipe, but we brought it home to give to our neighbor. We don’t know what they did with it… but we thought we’d go into insulin shock if we ate more than one bite.

Don’t worry madame maître d, we’ll be back.  Our foodie writer friend from Bend, Annissa Anderson, recommends Karam Restaurant in Portland as probably the best Lebanese around.  I would agree, it was delicious, authentic and I’ll be back soon to get my fill of Lebanese grilled eggplant.