4125 Transit Rd., Williamsville NY 14221
See More Restaurant Reviews For:
Mediterranean Middle Eastern Williamsville
"The menu is surprisingly brief, consisting of two salads, two soups, two chicken entrees, three types of beef or lamb, one fish dish, three vegetarian plates, and three pita wraps."
Two things stand out immediately about Williamsville's just-opened Middle Eastern restaurant, cutely named The Pomegranate: as the latest place to open following a ridiculously slow project to expand Transit Road, it is - like its similarly recent Italian neighbor Amaretto Bistro - sparkling new inside, with ethnic decor touches. And fans of its namesake fruit will love that it doesn't shy away from offering ways to sample the taste of pomegranate: the ingredient shows up in juice, bottles of Vitamin Water in the glass display case up front, a soup, and a stew, conspicuously absent only from the limited dessert options. This list mightn't be enough to get Pomegranate's cooks onto the TV show Iron Chef, but it's a good start - enough for us to write this rating-less preview of the restaurant as it gets established.
Early Days. As of the date of this article, The Pomegranate has been open for only four days - the reason we're not rating it yet - and though it's not at this point a major standout by local standards on food quality or menu offerings, it has some promise. In a town where Mediterranean restaurants are so commonly hole-in-the-wall establishments, this one makes a far better than average first impression: professional printing includes nice front signage, a logo-laden floor sticker, and short but nice menus, while a black and off-white contrasting tile floor gleams as you enter, lined with dark wood cabinets and tables. If nothing else, The Pomegranate deserves some credit for stepping up and offering a nicer environment for its patrons - it's a little like a much smaller, 40- or 50-person version of Elmwood's Pano's.
Few Choices. Well, sort of. The menu is surprisingly brief, consisting of two salads, two soups, two chicken entrees, three types of beef or lamb, one fish dish, three vegetarian plates, and three pita wraps, all based on the entrees. On our visit, the staff was still learning both the ordering and fulfillment ends of the business: due solely to the restaurant's youth, the wrong dishes kept coming out and circling the restaurant floor looking for people who ordered them, and we also wound up modestly overcharged when the dishes we ordered and paid for at the front counter didn't exactly match what we received. The extra dollars were roughly enough to substitute for our tip.
One Big Surprise. The single best dish we sampled at The Pomegranate was the one that looked the worst: Special Pomegranate Stew ($8) might have appeared to be a square bowl filled with brown mud and oil, but the flavor was wonderful: a pomegranate walnut sauce with a curry-like consistency gave a sweet, lightly fruity, and mildly nutty flavor to pieces of chicken breast inside, nicely evoking the essence of pomegranate without conjuring up any of its beauty. Surely, taste is the more important factor in a dish, but it should be mentioned that the "stew" so visually turned off the person who ordered it that she didn't want to finish it; a different serving style, such as placing the stew atop its included plate of basmati rice rather than in a separate bowl, would have remedied the problem entirely. Notably, this was one of the dishes that had a problem; we'd ordered brown rice rather than basmati at a small 50-cent premium, but wound up with the standard basmati instead.
Competent Beef and Chicken. We also sampled two other dishes, the more impressive of which was the Chicken Breast Kabob Sandwich ($7), a wonderfully fresh pita loaded with a tabouli-like mix of minced parsley, tomatoes, and onions, plus a reasonable portion of fine, marinaded chicken breast chunks. In addition to looking nicer than any of the other dishes, this wrap was big - a full meal unto itself - and though the chicken wasn't particularly flavorful, it was obviously fresh off the grill, moist enough, and nicely balanced by the cool, mildly lemony vegetables. A lightly minty yogurt cucumber sauce was included on the side and tasted fine, though it was not strictly necessary given the other ingredients; we'd have been happier with stronger flavor in the meat and no sauce on the side. Also worth a brief mention: this was another dish with an issue, as we wound up being charged $9 for the Chicken Barg, a version with rice rather than the pita. We wrote this off as an honest mistake.
Our other entree actually combined two of Pomegranate's offerings - the ground beef kabob Koobideh with the Filet Mignon Barg kabob - on a single plate called the Kabob Sultani ($13). With skewers removed, the plate featured one strip of each type of meat alongside another big portion of saffron-topped basmati rice, a medium-sized grilled tomato, plus springs of parsley and cilantro. Though one mightn't have expected it, the ground beef Koobideh turned out to be more palate-pleasing, having been sculpted from more thoroughly seasoned meat that contrasted with the only lightly citrus-flavored but tender sliced steak. As with the other plates of rice we'd received, the basmati here arrived only a touch above lukewarm, but the flavors were nice enough that we didn't mind much.
Salad and Yogurt Soda. Given two salad options, we went with the one that sounded more interesting: there was a $6 Garden Salad made from lettuce and other veggies topped with a choice of a few standard dressings, but we picked the Shiraz Salad ($4.50), which offered diced cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes mixed with herbs and a lemon-oil house dressing. Though it wasn't anything remarkable, the Shiraz was just what we'd hoped for, light, fresh, and mild.
By comparison, we found the mint-flavored Choopan Yogurt Soda ($2.50) to be a disappointment, though one that's probably attributable to cultural differences. Having tried yogurt drinks from both Asia and India, we're actually bigger fans of the concept than many Westerners, and occasionally sample new versions just to see whether there's something different and fun to be had. Not here: this bottled variation was atypically devoid of any sweetness, tasting like little more than a mix of carbonated seltzer water and pungent yogurt with neither the consistency nor the sugar to please our tongues. And there wasn't much else to be had here for a sweet tooth, either: dessert choices consisted solely of slices of what appeared to be store-bought cheesecake, plus a small tray of cookies, neither on the menu. We're hoping to find a broader and more authentic collection of options the next time we visit.
But should you visit The Pomegranate? As of early February, 2010, our advice would be to give the place a little while to settle in - there are still kinks to be worked out, and once they are, you'll be able to really sit back and enjoy the nice decor and the fairly priced food. Additionally, the brand new Garden Bakery next door may well be open, hopefully offering a wider variety of desserts if The Pomegranate doesn't fill that gap itself. We'll add a rating and additional details after we've made our follow-up visit.