Cleopatra Mediterranean Restaurant
Te drab-looking building off of I-35 that formerly housed an insurance company has been transformed by friendly Jordanian owners into a casual Middle Eastern eatery
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., April 28, 2006
Cleopatra Mediterranean Restaurant
2620 S. I-35, 947-9462
Monday-Thursday, 9am-midnight; Friday-Saturday, 9am-3am; Sunday, 11am-11pm
In the case of Cleopatra Mediterranean Restaurant, you really can't judge a book by its cover. The drab-looking building off of I-35 that formerly housed an insurance company has been transformed by friendly Jordanian owners into a casual Middle Eastern eatery. It's a great destination for an inexpensive date or a fun night out with friends.
The exotic and perhaps even kitschy interiors bring a fun atmosphere to the otherwise plain, Western-style dining room. But if you're looking for a cool experience, ask to be seated in the "tent room" to the right of the entrance. The tent, its walls covered with tan-colored burlap and original rugs and fabrics, features traditional low seating and floor trays, as well as shishe (traditional smoking pipes) in the center of the room. With Arabic music playing in the background, one truly feels transported to a nomad's tent in the middle of the desert. On weekends, they feature belly dancers, and the party goes on until late.
Cleopatra's menu isn't huge, but it is substantial, and there is something for everyone, including vegetarians. They offer Middle Eastern breakfast daily.
At lunchtime, there is a small buffet that changes every day of the week. For dinner, the menu has affordable appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, and entrées, although we found some portions to be small for the price. Some of the menu items and prices changed between our two visits, but the new dishes are appealing as well.
Among the appetizers, the Cleopatra Plate ($13.99) is a good way to try many different things, including shish kebabs, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, and a wonderfully earthy baba ghanoush that was chunkier than I am used to, allowing us to really taste the flavor of the roasted eggplant. The Kibbeh ($3.99) are usually my favorite, and here they do not disappoint, crunchy outside and full of flavor inside. The Labneh ($3.99) is a unique dish of tangy pasteurized kefir cheese drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with mint and crushed chile flakes, served with warm pita triangles. A cup of Lentil Soup ($1.99) is creamy and redolent of mint and spices.
I love shawarma, but the sandwich version ($4.99) here was a disappointment, because the few pieces of lamb were not very tender or flavorful. However, the Grilled Meat Combo ($15.99) is a good way to sample Cleopatra's lamb, chicken, and kafta, which is served over well-seasoned yellow rice with small sides of hummus, baba ghanoush, and cucumber yogurt salad. In this meat platter, the kafta is prepared in its more common cigar shape. On the Kafta Plate ($9.99) it comes as a flat pancake of tasty baked ground meat topped with a grilled tomato slice and a small side of cucumber yogurt salad. With only those items on the plate, it wasn't a completely satisfactory entrée, and we felt it was overpriced. A better option is the Sautéed Beef and Tomato ($6.99), a simple yet flavorful combination of ground beef, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, and spices, served with warm pita and a small salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs. The side of Tabouleh ($1.99) is small but very refreshing, tangy, and chock-full of fresh parsley and mint.
Like all new restaurants in a competitive town, Cleopatra still needs to fine-tune certain aspects, but the necessary components are already in place. I hope it survives so I don't have to drive far north to enjoy good Middle Eastern cuisine.
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