From the executive chef of Pompano Beach's Shishka Lebanese Grill comes sister restaurant Mijana Lebanese Cuisine.
As one of Gulfstream Park’s latest additions, the eatery combines authentic Lebanese food, Beirut-inspired ambiance and traditional Middle-Eastern entertainment with the goal of immersing local diners into one of the world’s faraway lands.
Mijana is Chef Ali Husseini’s newest endeavor. Born and raised in Lebanon, Husseini received his training while working in restaurants in Beirut. In the early '90s he moved to the U.S. and has worked in New York, Miami, Orlando and most recently, Pompano Beach at Shishka Lebanese Grill.
“I’ve been in the business since I was about 15 years old,” laughs Husseini. “About five years ago while working at Shishka, my partner Walid Zabib and I started to explore the idea of opening a fine dining Lebanese restaurant and that is how Mijana started.”
In Arabic the word Mijana means a pleasant surprise and that’s exactly what Husseini wants to give his customers.
As both the co-owner and executive chef of the restaurant, Husseini created a traditional Middle-Eastern style menu of beloved dishes that are cherished in his homeland.
“Homemade Lebanese food is my specialty,” says Husseini. “All of the recipes come directly from my family and are made fresh at the restaurant.”
The menu is made up of more than 50 different dishes broken up into seven sections all handcrafted by Husseini. He recommends ordering a variety of different plates and sharing to get a better taste of Middle Eastern cuisine. From Lebanese-style salads like Tabbouleh ($7.50) and Fattouch ($7.50), hot appetizers like Fatayer ($6.95) and Makanek ($7.95) and enough fish, seafood and meat selections to please a small army, one will not leave Mijana hungry. And don’t worry – though the names of Husseini’s food might leave you confused, a detailed description of the plate and its ingredients is given under each item.
“I did a lot of research and the area really needed a restaurant like this,” explains Husseini. “We want to show people what this type of culture really is.”
Mijana does just that. During daylight hours the eatery remains serene, offering diners a laid-back environment to enjoy a meal. But on weekends reservations are a must as the once quiet restaurant transforms into a Middle Eastern nightlife hotspot.
Though the kitchen closes at around midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, Mijana’s entertainment line-up is likely just getting started. The restaurant has over 25 flavors of Hookah ($21.50+) and brings in Middle Eastern singers and dancers as often as possible.
“It’s really not just a restaurant,” says Husseini. “It’s also become a cultural meeting place.”
Inside the restaurant the décor is a cross between traditional Middle Eastern and modern Mediterranean styles. Husseini’s partner Zabib specializes in design and handpicked everything from the floor tiles to all of the individual fixtures, with many of the materials imported from Beirut.
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“I really think the design and atmosphere of this restaurant is very unique,” says Husseini. “It’s really the first of its kind in terms of a big, fine-dining Middle Eastern restaurant.”
So if you’ve always wanted to take a trip to the Middle East, save yourself the airfare and the hours of flight time by taking a night to visit Mijana Lebanese Cuisine. And just a tip: even if you’re beyond full from your meal, don’t leave without ordering the knafe ($6.25) for dessert. You’ll thank me later!