305 West State St.
Media, PA 19063
This was my first visit to Media, PA and I'd heard some really great things about a quaint little cafe right in the heart of town. Obviously a visit was in order.
Desert Rose is a "Mediterranean cafe and market," although it's (a lot) less of a market and more of a sit-down-and-enjoy-a-leisurely-meal sort of place.
Advertising their fresh baked pita and some other house-made offerings, they didn't offer any additional daily specials. I think they consider every menu item to be 'special' here, and with right.
The kitchen is quite small and it's the first thing you notice when you walk through the door. There are only 2 employees, chef and server (husband and wife), so they don't need too much room. The shawarma can be seen slowly rotating in all its clean and beautiful glory. Their methods are all very traditional, where only copper pots and one enameled cast-iron Dutch oven are seen in use on the stove-top. Not even a deep fryer for added convenience...
Here's where the magic happens. A little oven of pita delights.
Soup of the day was potato leek and it was fantastic. Sometimes the consistency of a potato puree soup can be too thick, like baby food, or otherwise too watery - this one hit the nail on the head with its perfect viscosity. The addition of fresh parsley and high-quality olive oil gave every few bites an added punch that was certainly appreciated.
After the starter of soup, the feasting began.
First up was the warm hummus, mushroom, onion and sumac platter. Served with choice of one side salad - they have a number of marinated veggie options, we went with traditional cucumber-tomato - and two freshly baked pita breads. Hot out of the tiny oven.
I don't know how they do it, but this pita was split to perfection right down the center. Perfect for the upcoming sandwich...
It was soft, pliable and cooked to perfection. Perhaps a bit thick for the hummus dipping application, but its freshness outdid its weight and made for a great scooping mechanism. Check out this hummus presentation:
Absolutely gorgeous. The mushrooms and onions were sauteed to a rich caramelization, they were smoky and charred in all the right places. Cut into fairly thick slices, there was a nice, meaty texture with each well-seasoned bite. The hummus left a little something to be desired, with the tahini being the most notable flavor - I like a deep garlic or spice undertone that just wasn't there. But, when it all mixed together, it won me over nonetheless.
Perhaps one of the more interesting (and more delicious) aspects of the meal were the falafel balls. you can add a side to any platter for only a few extra bucks.
Prepared in the traditional method, the chef uses a falafel scoop to shape these little muffin-topped gems. As I mentioned above, there's no automatic deep fryer to aid in the ease of production. Oil is kept at just the right temperature in a copper stock pot over a burner, no short cuts here!
And does it ever pay off. The care and authenticity that goes into the preparation is beyond compare. Bursting with parsley and chick pea flavor, cooked to the most perfect of golden browns, this falafel is crunchy outside, moist inside and is definitely some of the best around. As if that wasn't enough, I had to end with a shawarma sandwich.
Served with cucumbers, tomato, hummus, fresh herbs and topped with their cabbage and citrus salad, the pita was a sturdy vessel for the overflowing ingredients. Spicy and delicious. The meat was tender, bursting with flavor and was gilded with bits of rotisserie-fired crispness on every fine edge.
Chef Owner Jason McHugh and his wife, Natali Shiri, a native of Petach-Tikva Israeli, make Desert Rose a most enjoyable experience for certain. Their love and dedication to serving authentic cuisine in such a comfortable and laid-back manner (but also very well-informed) is a welcome change from the fast-paced hustle of the city. Take a trip to Media and see for yourself.