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Fala-Filo delights, surprises, excites with rarely seen drinks, sweets and savory stars 

click to enlarge Ornate tea sets highlight Fala-Filo’s pretty presentations. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Ornate tea sets highlight Fala-Filo’s pretty presentations.
Add a new word to your culinary vocabulary: Mansaf. The Jordanian national dish bears nomadic Bedouin roots, but now is eaten widely across the Middle East. It comprises lamb cooked tender in fermented, dried goat yogurt (jameed) — usually served as pulled meat with rice atop flatbread, on a tray for communal eating — but at newly opened Fala-Filo chef/owner Simood Gorguis plates it ready to fall from the bone, next to soft pita pieces, two types of rice and a bowl of extra sauce for dousing everything or dipping, as one would treat an au jus.

The lamb holds no gaminess, but from the jameed acquires a faintly tart tanginess and richness, which further picks up rosemary essence from one rice, and a mild acidic spice from tomato paste and jalapeño in the other — the pita as a secondary starch to soak up the flavor symphony. Gorguis’ rendition is a hypnotic showstopper, exclusive to town we think, and well worth $20 and a visit to Fala-Filo.

If her name and the overall quality of her food’s familiar, it’s because she split off from Arabian Nights Café, which I glowingly reviewed in 2016, sharing her story as an Iraqi refugee who gleaned cooking experience while displaced for years in Syria, then Turkey before immigrating. She previously practiced civil law, and as evidenced by gorgeous Middle Eastern mosaics hung around her dining room, she’s a gifted artist, too.

Another character who makes more of our experience than the food alone offers: our server Nabil, who’s more accurately a guide, showing humor and warmth, always ready with detailed answers to our questions, complete with a description of his 14-year-old, soccer-fanatic twins, who also vouch for Mansaf as Fala-Filo’s go-to dish.
Location Details Fala-Filo
6050 N. Carefree Circle
Central
Colorado Springs, CO
358-7865,
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, until 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Many more items are rarely (if ever) seen locally, making it the type of dining excursion where you explore as much as you gleefully fill your face. Karkade is tart hibiscus tea served hot, in a wine glass, its elegance only outdone by an ornamental tray holding a faux-jeweled spoon and ornate metal-wrapped and -lidded glass cup containing a fragrant sage-clove-cardamom-ginger-cinnamon-tarragon hot tea. Sahlab, best saved for a drinkable dessert, is basically a more liquid pudding, thickened in part, Nabil explains, by an Arabic gum (mastic tree resin, we later discover — which releases a subtle pine-like, semi-bitter flavor), featuring milk spiked with orange and rose water, plus vanilla, garnished with pistachio crumbles and coconut shreds. Highly sweet and pretty fabulous; texture- and slightly taste-wise, I think of an Indian lassi drink’s sexier cousin.

Macdouce is a delightful appetizer of pungent, lightly sour, pigroockled and olive oil-preserved baby eggplants, stuffed with walnuts, peppers and herbs to mash and spread on pita with a smear of hummus. Nabil says we must try the Iraqi grilled meats, so we grab a combo dish with nicely chewy, juicy lamb, chicken and beef kebab, plus side fixings, savoring a notable tangy, salty element to the herbaceous marinades — one of Gorguis’ secrets (she won’t share the ingredients).

She’s quite a pastry chef, too, we recall, so we depart with sweets to-go, a mix of baklava flavors (potent cinnamon-pecan, and clever carrot-coconut), her syrupy Syrian sweet cheese rolls (Halwaet Aljeben) and a shredded filo wrap filled with cloying pistachio cream (kunafeh).

Sweet might be the best word to encapsulate our whole experience; looking back, we were all smiles, surprised at many turns, charmed by our hosts, overjoyed by our food and drink.

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