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blog swirl & savor

Fatma and Fatoush

Beth Ribblett

I received an email from our friend Fatma the other day letting us know that her new restaurant, Fatoush in the New Orleans Healing Center, was now quietly serving a full menu.  We were in the neighborhood delivering some wine for a wedding Saturday afternoon, so we decided to stop by and check out the progress. 

As we enter the restaurant from the Healing Center, we literally run into Fatma.  Dressed in a skirt, wedge heeled boots, stripped blouse and a lacy neck scarf, she is charging out of the kitchen, cordless power drill in hand assisting with the installation of the speakers for the newly installed sound system.  She hands the drill over to the guys, greets us with hugs and kisses, grabs a few menus and brings us to a table in the newly opened dining room. Ah the ever changing hats of a restaurateur!  But she actually had time to visit with us a while so we were able to chat a bit about her latest project.

Having been on the New Orleans restaurant scene for almost 25 years, Fatma actually came out of retirement specifically because of the Healing Center.  The concept of the healing center was developed post Katrina as a new model for community centers, "specially created to help, heal, and empower surrounding neighborhoods on a civic, social, economic, environmental, intellectual, and spiritual level". The developers have taken an abandoned eye sore and turned it into an artful, brightly colored and nicely landscaped complex that houses a holistic blend of businesses and services all meant to feed the body, mind and soul. The well designed space gives you easy access to a cooperative grocery, street university, fitness center, book store, yoga studio, green business incubator, healing arts collective, performance hall, interfaith center, and Fatma's restaurant, Fatoush.

Dining room at Fatoush

Chef in the open kitchen
Our original intention was to have a cup of coffee and a piece of their delicious homemade baklava, but after talking with Fatma about the menu, we decided to try a few small bites.  A really nice mix of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Turkish dishes, there is a lot to choose from at really affordable prices. The most expensive item on the list is the grilled lamb chops at $15.99, and considering the quality of ingredients they are using, this place is a truly a bargain.  Focused on using local and organic products, they also use free range chicken and meats that are Kosher, Halal Cut, and grass fed from the Gonsoulin Farm in New Iberia. 

Lahmacun
 They have a Turkish chef, Hakki Erce, so we wanted to try some of the traditional dishes ordering the Lahmacun and Imama Bayildi. To drink we decided on Turkish black tea that comes from Fatma's mother's tea farm in Turkey, which by the way is complimentary and you can drink it free all day long if you so desire.  They first send their fresh, warm, organic house made pita bread accompanied by a deliciously rich dip of sundried tomatoes, kalamta olives, sumac and olive oil.  Again a complimentary item with your meal, I promise that once you taste it you will devour every last bite of it before your next item arrives.  Next up for us was the Lahmacun ($3.50), a sort of Turkish flat bread topped with freshly ground, spiced beef and lamb which you fold and put in red onion, parsley and sliced tomatoes.  House made flat bread and fresh ingredients made this a simple but really tasty, healthy dish. 

Imama Bayildi
The Imama Bayildi ($4.99) arrived as we were finishing the flat bread and was a beautiful slice of pan fried eggplant topped with a mix of sauteed onion, tomato and garlic accompanied by rice and fresh lettuce and tomato.  A sort of Turkish take on caponata, the eggplant was perfect fork cutting texture and the flavors of the topping, balanced and again prepared with all fresh ingredients.

Turkish tea and baklava

Well I still had that bakalava on my mind and even with as full as I was beginning to feel, we got our tea refilled and put in an order.  An order ($4.95) happens to be three pieces of the best melt in your mouth homemade pastry, nuts and honeyed syrup you've ever tasted, so beware because you will be licking your fingers and your plate before it's all over....We can't wait to come back for a full dinner and try those lamb chops!

The New Orleans Healing Center

We find the whole scene refreshing, from the healthy food at Fatoush, the organic food market, the services and other business just give this place a really welcoming vibe.  If you haven't been yet, you need to check out the New Orleans Healing Center.  And Fatoush is a must for those who like healthy food, prepared fresh with local ingredients and the best of intentions! 

Fatma & Bob
 Great job Fatma, you've done it again! And yes, we are already talking about a wine dinner....