The best survivors of the gas grill are the shrimp kabobs, marinated in garlic, lemon, cumin, paprika, olive oil, and spices. The shrimps are large and naturally sweet. I was also fond of the kofta kabob but was outvoted. A long, thick uncased sausage of house-ground lamb and beef, strongly flavored with raw onion, had the moist chewiness of coarse meatloaf. Of course, it doesn't compare to the little soujok that Mary Ellen loved so much.
The marinades for the beef filet mignon chunks and lamb kabobs are very salty; the chicken breast kebabs are less so but on the dry side. Beef shawerma (sliced from a roast set over the grill) and chicken shawerma are, as always, cooked well done and hence dry. If I were ordering à la carte, I might go with the orfaly kebab, the kofta mixture alternated with pieces of grilled eggplant, tomatoes, and onions, topped with raw onions and summac, a deliciously sour red spice. Or I might try the marinated lamb chops. But overall, to my tastes, Rannoush's best dishes are just about any that haven't touched the grill. The listed "pick hits" rate four or five stars each as outstanding renditions; they're responsible for the restaurant's overall high rating and are the dishes I'd choose here again.
My beer-drinking boyfriend opted for Almaya, a tasty Lebanese brand of Pilsener. The wine list -- about 20 affordable bottlings carefully chosen to suit the food -- includes a Beaujolais that tempted me sorely, but instead I decided to sample glasses of the Lebanese wines from Chateau Kehaja. The Sauvignon Blanc was pleasant, if weightless and nondescript. Better yet was the same chateau's rewarding red, equally light but well balanced and a lovely match to the cuisine -- quite similar to a Beaujolais. There's also a rosé from the same vintner, which I didn't try. "Dries" may want to opt for the house's banana-milk cocktail, or a raspberry iced tea, available along with standard soft drinks and fruit juices.
As we were finishing dinner, a gorgeous young brunette shimmied onto the floor to belly-dance between the tables. (That night's crowd refused to be dragged out of their chairs to dance with her, and my boyfriend was the only man who understood the protocol of tucking a tip into her waistband.) Meanwhile, our table enjoyed sensual pleasures of another sort. Baklava and the similar (but heavier) basmeh are made in-house with filo and pistachios. Both are grainy and tight. If you want more indulgence, the gelatos (from Gelatismo, run by a French guy in Escondido) will wow you. Lynne fell in love with the cardamom flavor, which tasted like Indian kheer but with a lusher texture. The honey-lavender was a bit weird but rich and sexy -- almost too voluptuous to handle.
"Would you come back here again?" I asked Mary Ellen. "Here, yes," she said. "But Detroit? I don't know. I'd have to be sure the food's at least this good before I'd travel 50 miles for it."