Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Courtyard Grill

The hummus and chicken shawarma craze may be long past its crest, but many New Orleanians still go gaga over grape leaves and gyros. Even though I include myself in that crowd, on my jaunt through Europe a few years back I developed an even stronger affinity for the gyro's Turkish cousin: the kebab. No matter where I traveled, the omnipresent Doner kebab always seemed to be there.

While most of the kebab shops I frequented in Europe were of the street food genre, the kebabs from Courtyard Grill are touted as members of a higher pedigree, though still sold at bargain prices. Boasting of organic meats, house baked bread, and hand stacked rotisserrie towers, though the menu at Courtyard Grill reads similar to the vast array of Middle Eastern restaurants around town, the kitchen does things a little differently.

All meals at the Courtyard Grill begin with a complimentary basket of the house baked bread and a small tasting of agili, a condiment with which I had no prior experience. Though advertised as "spicy" on the menu and a veritable doppleganger for fiery harissa, the agili is actually a mild, almost fruity mixture of diced tomato, bell pepper, garlic, herbs, and olive oil. Matched with the house baked bread that is akin to a taller, more airy pizza crust, it's a simple but interesting introduction to a meal. If dining with a crowd, the appetizer platter is the way to start – your choice of 4 of the cold dishes to share for $15.95. What comes forth is ample portions of creamy/chunky babaganush, mild chachik yogurt sauce, large blocks of feta and walnuts, meat stuffed grape leaves, and whichever else you choose.

Sandwiches are either wrapped in thin lavash or in conventional form on the house baked bread. The Adana Wrap is a spicy blend of ground beef and lamb with loads of red pepper, almost like a merguez, served with marinated onions, purple cabbage slaw, chachik, and steamed rice for $9. The Doner (pictured) is served on the house baked bread with all of the above accompaniments, save the rice, for a whopping $8.

Platters are substantial and can easily split between two people who share an appetizer. The Doner Durum is an interesting twist on the classic. The thin, crispy slices of lamb and beef are rolled pinwheel-style in a thin tortilla like dough, cut, placed upright and ladled over with a mild tomato butter sauce. I expected more spice and assertiveness from the sauce, but the dish still worked well.

The "courtyard" aspect is a side deck with an overhang that is a nice setting for dining outdoors. Newcomers are usually confused where to go upon arrival, which is understandable. The door closest to the street leads directly into the kitchen and is used for takeout service and for the waitresses to expedite orders for those dining in. The door set further back leads to the hostess stand and interior dining room. The restaurant recently secured its liquor license, so now you can enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine with your kebab.

Courtyard Grill - Birdie
4430 Magazine Street
(504) 875-4164
Lunch and Dinner Wed-Sun; Closed Tuesday


Fleurdelicious said...

You know, I'm really glad you wrote this post. We went to Courtyard Grill once a loooooong time ago and I have to admit, I wasn't too impressed. They had just opened so maybe we should give them another shot but it always seems to dead when we drive by. It's too bad they're not open tonight.

Peter said...

Went with a group of 12. Array of apps were mediocre, with the best being the Tabuleh. Humus, babaganoush, and meat pies were passable, but neither outstanding examples of the classics, nor anything interesting.

Lamb kabobs were dry and overcooked, with very little spice. Yogurt chicken was overly sauced, and served on a gloppy base of bred. Lamb shank was overcooked, and swimming in gravy. Beef stew was similarly simmered to the point where the meat had no flavor. Tavuk Sarma (stuffed chicken) was the one exception, quite interesting, and well prepared.

Staff was friendly until the need for checks arose. Restaurant was only willing to divide checks 3 ways, despite there being 12 of us. "Itemized" bill turned out to be a list of prices, with no identifier of what each dish cost. Restaurant accepts credit cards, but would not allow individual diners to use them, insisting that each entire check be paid in cash or on one credit card.

All in all, a place I had hoped for more from. Fatoush, Phonecia, or Byblos are clearly better options