Sudley Manor Square
7857 Sudley Rd.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Prices: Soups and appetizers 95 cents to $3.95, sandwiches and entrees $2.75 to $7.95.
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express.
No separate nonsmoking section.
When you sit near the front of this wonderful Lebanese restaurant, you have a perfect view of what makes it go: the flying Feghalis.
Like a top-notch trapeze act, the Feghali family uses talent and teamwork to good effect. Through the kitchen window at the back of the restaurant, you can see Elie Feghali, short and compact, constantly in motion, chopping and cutting, stuffing and skewering, drawing on her 14 years of experience as a caterer for Washington's embassies and hotels.
Outside the kitchen is her son, Najal, doing double duty, waiting on customers in the small rear section, where Middle Eastern dry goods are sold, and relaying dishes to his wife, Fadia, who is unfailingly friendly and helpful even when the tables begin to fill up and she has to pick up the pace as the sometimes lone server.
On most nights, those are the only three Feghalis you will see, but there are eight other family members who pitch in from time to time.
Most of the appetizers are $3.25 to $3.95. But the best way to start is to share a selection of four appetizers called maza, for $12.95. You make your choice from a dozen possibilities of savory meats and vegetables, not unlike Spanish tapas. My top four picks would be the deep-fried kibbe balls, a crisp exterior of crushed wheat wrapped around a well-seasoned interior of ground meat and pine nuts; the velvety hummus dip of blended chickpeas and sesame paste; the dense, pungent mini-sausages, magganik, bathed in lemon juice; and the lemony, sweet-edged stuffed grape leaves.
And speaking of lemons, Elie Feghali is not shy about squeezing a lemon over just about everything. Even the lentil soup was lemon-laced, although quite good.
Among the successful entrees is the simple but terrific roast lamb, perfumed with garlic and served thinly sliced with real mashed potatoes and pan juices. The price is $7.50.
Nearly as good is the sfiha bi-lahni, delicate bite-sized pastries of pita dough squares topped with cinnamon-edged ground meat, tomatoes and pine nuts, accompanied by creamy yogurt made in-house. And you can't go wrong with shish tawook, the tender, perfectly grilled boneless chicken breast, or beef shawarma, thin strips of marinated beef to be rolled in fresh pita with diced tomato and onions and a lemony sesame paste dip. Only one dish, the beef shish kabob, received a negative mark for toughness.
Many dishes come with rice prepared in the traditional Lebanese way -- cooked with toasted bits of vermicelli -- and all entrees come with a house salad and a garnish of pickled turnips colored a shocking pink with beet juice.
Beverages include freshly brewed mint and anise tea, lemonade with a splash of orange water, and the Lebanese beer Almaza, along with other imported varieties such as Bass Ale and Kronenbourg. And when you order Turkish coffee, it comes with two extra servings in a long-handled pitcher.
For dessert, don't miss the superb baklava; there are also other good Middle Eastern specialities.