If you love exploring the varied flavors of Lebanese, Armenian, Syrian and Jordanian cuisine, you’ll want to put Lebnani House, 5051 S. 27th St., on your list of spots to try. Not only will you find a veritable feast of both modern and traditional Levantine dishes, you’ll be treated to a fine dining experience in a beautifully appointed environment.
Lebnani House is a partnership between local restaurateur, Naser Fattah, and the owners of Lebnani Snack, a fast casual concept which was established in 1992 in Amman, Jordan. Together, they’ve merged the flavorful dishes which make Lebnani Snack a popular destination in Jordan with an environment that offers Milwaukeeans an elevated dining experience.
A gorgeous aesthetic
The restaurant, located in a former Pizza Hut next door to Famous Daves, has been utterly transformed. The exterior of the restaurant has been upgraded with a gray exterior and lovely landscaping. The restaurant also boasts a well-appointed patio covered by a beautifully decorated pergola that’s covered by plexiglass to protect diners from the rain.
Step into the restaurant and you’ll find an opulent dining area anchored by an eyecatching tree bursting with pink blooms in the center of the room.
Walls in the dining area are painted in vibrant blue, accented by pink, blue and gray velveteen furnishings and wooden tables set with Jordanian ceramic dishware.
Eye-catching art, including a depiction of the cedars of Lebanon, decorate the walls. Meanwhile blown glass ornaments hang from the ceiling beneath decorative lighting over a corner table near the back of the restaurant.
A feast of flavors
Leading the kitchen is Chef Khlaldoon Mousa, a classically trained chef who moved to Wisconsin from San Francisco to oversee the cuisine at Lebnani House. Under his watch, diners are treated to a dining experience that remains true to the traditions of Levantine cuisine, while introducing fresh, modern dishes and unique presentations that reflect the evolution of culinary culture.
The menu is divided into six sections: salads, cold and hot mezza, fukhara, mashawi (grilled meats) and main dishes. Options from each section can be combined to create an amazing shareable feast for groups small or large.
Beverages include fresh, housemade cocktails (including passionfruit and strawberry mojitos), freshly squeezed juices, house made basil or mint lemonade. Soft drinks, mineral water and Barbican, along with hot red or green tea, American coffee and Turkish coffee are also available.
Guests will find an expansive list of salads from Armenian salad with romaine lettuce and vegetables seasoned with garlic, cumin, aleppo pepper, lemon and olive oil to classic tabbouleh. There’s traditional fattoush salad as well as the Lebnani House Fattoush, a fresh take on the classic featuring tomato, cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, crispy flatbread, sumac, lemon, olive oil and pomegranate seeds ($9.99).
The Bomali Salad captures the flavors of summer with fresh pomelo, iceberg lettuce, corn, traditional cheese and fresh mushrooms in a house dressing ($9.99).
Cold mezza includes familiar items like grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice; mutabal (mashed eggplant with olive oil, garlic, tahini and seasonings); and traditional hummus (priced $7.99-$8.99). But you’ll be wowed by the flavors of the modern hummus trio which features bekmaz hummus (infused with a subtle bit of peppery spice); fresh basil-forward pesto hummus; and gorgeous fuschia-toned beetroot hummus ($13.99). The hummus is served with freshly baked flatbread prepared in the restaurant’s stone-lined oven.
There are also hot mezza including grilled halloumi cheese ($9.99); hummus topped with cooked veal, olive oil and pine nuts ($10.99); and classic kubbeh moloukiyyeh showcasing tender, flavorfully seasoned meat, bulgur, onions and nuts ($8.99).
There are also a wide variety of bil ajin, the topped flatbreads which have been served in countries like Lebanon since the 1500s. Options include Armenian lahmeh bil ajin with minced beef, green chilies, pomegranate molasses and spices ($11.99), as well as the ultra flavorful beef filet bil ajin topped with thin slices of beautifully seasoned beef filet and olive oil ($12.99).
House-baked manoush is also available topped with za’atar and olive oil, traditional cheese or mixed cheeses (kashkaval, mozzarella and cheddar) for $9.99-10.99.
There’s also mashrouha flatbread, a boat-shaped flatbread topped with minced beef, cheese and vegetables ($11.99).
Additional shareables include fatteh, a comforting dish composed of layers of toasted pita bread tossed with tahini, tangy yogurt, spices and herbs. Lebnani house offers their fatteh topped with beets, eggplant and beef, chicken or grilled prawns ($11.99-$13.99).
Guests will also find a variety of fukhara, Palestinian dishes which are named for the clay vessels in which they are cooked. Options include lahmeh (beef, onions, hot peppers, olive oil, spices), makanek (Lebanese sausage), sujouk (a dry, spicy fermented sausage) and freekeh bil fukhara, a comforting Italian-inspired dish featuring freekeh, an ancient wheat-based grain cooked with spices, cream and parmesan cheese in a traditional clay pot ($10.99). It might not be much to look at, but it's delicious.
There are also fresh chicken livers cooked with garlic, butter and lemon and dressed with pomegranate molasses; eggplant and beef sajiyyeh prepared with olive oil and kashkaval cheese; Lebnani House mushrooms; and batata harra, fried potatoes seasoned with coriander, garlic and spices ($7.99).
Grilled meats and mains
Lebnani House prepares a wide range of grilled meat dishes using a charcoal grill (a relative rarity among Levantine restaurants in Wisconsin). Options include shish tawooq (chargrilled seasoned chicken); shish kebab (chargrilled beef) and the classic mixed grill featuring chargrilled veal, chicken and kebab served with fries, rice and grilled vegetables ($16.99-$22.99).
A family sized mixed grill, which serves up to six, is also available.
Delectably fresh head-on tiger prawns are chargrilled and served with an amazing garlic lemon sauce that you'll definitely want to sop up in some flatbread (Served as an entree with grilled vegetables, rice or fries for $20.99).
There are also grilled lamb chops, yogurt kebabs (made with veal and lamb); and beef or chicken shawarma presented at the table on a long metal skewer (served with pickles, tahini sauce and fried potatoes, $17.99-$18.99).
But be sure to save room for dishes like chicken maklouba; Jordanian mansaf; chargrilled hamour fish (brownspotted grouper) served with a choice of tahini sauce or tomato sauce, pine nuts and chili fried potatoes ($19.99).
Lebnani House’s kafta is also stellar. The spiced veal and lamb is cooked in your choice of tahini or tomato sauce with pine nuts, sliced potatoes and chili peppers ($16.99).
Desserts at Lebnani house include muhallabiya (milk pudding with dried apricots and caramelized sugar); amm ali (baked mille-feuille with milk and nuts); kunafa (spun pastry layered with cheese); lava cake with vanilla ice cream or cheesecake ($7.99-$9.99).
Lebnani House is open seven days a week with hours Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.