Restaurant News & Reviews

You won’t find this holiday dessert on Pita Kabab’s menu, but you should order it anyway

Kashta katayef is an off-menu specialty at Pita Kabab in downtown Matthews.
Kashta katayef is an off-menu specialty at Pita Kabab in downtown Matthews.

Seems like every culture has specials sweets at holiday time. Right now through June 4, it’s Ramadan in the Muslim calendar. So you’ll find cream-filled pancakes called kashta katayef at many Middle Eastern eateries — including Pita Kabab in downtown Matthews.

Ramadan involves day-long fasting for the faithful. When sundown comes, people often break their fast with a celebratory meal. You won’t see kashta katayef on the printed menu at Pita Kabab, but it’s a favorite among those in-the-know.

“We make our own kashta,” says Pita Kabab owner Sam Serhal. The custard-like filling is a blend of milk and cream, boiled together with a hint of rosewater, then chilled.

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Sam Serhal opened Pita Kabab to share his Lebanese food and culture. Tom Hanchett

Little pancakes called katayef are rolled around the kashta and sealed with a pinch. With a drizzle of sweet syrup and a dusting of crushed pistachios, the treat is ready to eat.

You could just order kashta katayef, if you like. But it’s more fun to bring a friend (or several) and explore the extensive menu at Pita Kabab. Owner Serhal came from Lebanon to study engineering at UNC Charlotte some 30 years ago and launched the restaurant when he couldn’t find food he remembered from home.

I especially like the range of appetizers, enough to make a meal in themselves. A pita sampler plate with hummus, baba ghanuje and pita bread for dipping, plus meat-stuffed grape leaves, is a good way to start.

Don’t miss the mekanek sausage or its slightly spicier cousin sujok sausage, both made in-house. Chef Peter Torosian — recently arrived from Syria with wife Kinda Gorgi, a Pita Kabab waitress — simmers the meat in a yogurt sauce with diced fresh tomatoes.

Come to Pita Kabab this Saturday, and you’ll hear live music in the Middle Eastern tradition from the trio Second-Hand Gypsies, accompanied by belly dancer Kamilah. “We like to get people to know our culture,” Serhal says.

No need to wait til sundown. Entertainment starts at 6:30 p.m. The kitchen is open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Community historian Tom Hanchett writes at HistorySouth.org. Email him: Tom@HistorySouth.org.

Pita Kabab Mediterranean Grill

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday.

Location: 131 E. John St., Matthews.

Details: 704-847-1110; www.pitakababgrill.com.

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