23532 El Tor Road
Lake Forest, CA 92630
It seems like we have been on a real Lebanese kick lately. It all started because Katie wanted to find a great garlic sauce, like the one she had at a Lebanese restaurant right by where she used to work in Ontario. She claims that the garlic sauce there had crazy medicinal powers that could cure anything from headaches to sinus infections. She has yet to find her OC counterpart to this garlic sauce, and was hoping to find it at Cafe Matinee.
For those of you that know the area, Cafe Matinee is located in the same shopping center as El Toro Meats, Nina's Indian and British Grocery, and one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Cocina de Ricardo. From what I have gathered online, this small restaurant has been here for a long while. It's a family restaurant with Owner and Head Chef, Gus Naddour in the kitchen, his wife, Suzane Naddour running the front of the house, and daughter Grace working here as an Assistant Manager.
This restaurant is not large, maybe 15 or so tables, with what I assume to be Lebanese music playing softly over the speakers. We were here on a recent Saturday night, and there was a steady stream of customers walking in the door, most of whom were known to the family. The menu here is not too large, with only seven entrees listed, a little more variety on the appetizer selections, and some salads offered. A pretty standard menu for Lebanese cuisine. We were ready to eat, so let's see what Cafe Matinee had in store for us.
When we first started looking at the menu, Katie zeroed in, and ordered this cheese pie, which is known as Jibne ($5.99). The menu states that its fresh baked bread topped with tomatoes and a blend of cheeses. Not sure what the cheeses were, but it kind of had a jack cheese kind of taste to it, but was a little on the thicker side. the bread was soft, but held up to the cheese. Not overly flavorful, but pretty filling.
Looking at the Yelp reviews for Cafe Matinee, everyone commented on how good their Hummus ($5.99) is, and for once, those Yelp people got it right. This was one of the best hummus appetizers we have had. Creamy garbanzo beans, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, which is topped with olive oil, made this dip a winner. This had big time flavor, with almost a little too much oil on top, but it was still good. Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the pita bread, which was nice and fresh. The appetizers here come with pickled turnips and olives. Katie took down a good number of the olives, while I munched on the turnips.
Entrees come with a side salad, which came at the same time as our appetizers. This simple salad was dressed in an oily, but subtle minty dressing. A little on the larger size for a side salad, the produce was very fresh here. Not a salad I would normally order, but it was good for what it was.
Katie always gets the same thing when we eat at a Lebanese restaurant, Chicken Shawarma ($14.99). The chicken is cut into bite sized pieces, then cooked with onions and tomatoes, and served with a tahini sauce and rice. Even though they did not have garlic sauce here, Katie was very pleased with her dinner. The chicken was very tender, and marinated well, and the tomatoes and onions really worked well here. She called this plate, "real good".
Whenever I can't make up my mind at a restaurant, I always order the thing on the menu that has the most stuff on it. At Matinee Cafe that was the Skewer Combo ($19.99). With this combo you get a skewer each of kafta (ground lamb), filet mignon, and chicken. I was a little taken aback when they asked how I wanted my beef prepared here, I'd never been asked that at a Lebanese restaurant before. This came out just as I requested, a perfect medium rare. The beef was of a definite high quality, and very tasty. Even the chicken, which is almost always overcooked in restaurants, was tender and juicy. The ground lamb was spiced very well here. A real good plate of meat skewers. The rice was good and moist, and I liked using pieces of the grilled onion with bites of the meats.
Even without the presence of garlic sauce, Katie and I were very happy with our time at Cafe Matinee. Sure I thought they were a little on the high side with their prices, for the amount of food that you get. Also the service was a little on the spotty side, but when we did see someone, they were very friendly, but leisurely. Even with these minor gripes, we would definitely come back to Cafe Matinee, and would recommend it to anyone that likes Lebanese food. The food was that good. Our search for a great garlic sauce continues, so if you know of a place, leave us a comment below, and let us know about it.
Out of five Scooby Snacks, (because Scooby's best friend Shaggy was voiced by the late Casey Kasem, who was born to Lebanese parents), five being best to zero being worst, Cafe Matinee gets 3.5 Scooby Snacks.
For more information about Cafe Matinee, go to their website here: http://www.lebanesecafe.net/