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On the grill: sets itself apart from other middle eastern fare

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The sandwiches alone are enough to set Forest Hills' On the Grill apart from other Middle Eastern eateries. Chef Zurial Kalaf's 40 years of falafel making play a large part in this, as does his masterful shwarma. But there's something much more elemental underlying the greatness of these sandwiches. The toothsome house-made pita possesses such structural integrity that a pound of ingredients can be stuffed inside without the entire pocket rupturing.

Chock full of Israeli salad, tahini and what are surely this borough's lightest falafel balls, the falafel sandwich ($3.95) is perhaps the most filling I've ever had. Likewise, the chicken shwarma pita ($6.50) packs quite a punch. One time I visited with an unrepentant carnivore who greedily eyed the slowly turning cone of meat glistening with fatty goodness. Mesmerized by this spectacle he decided to forego the Israeli salad and other garnishes so as to concentrate on the main event. I think he may have been on to something. The shwarma possesses a perfect balance of tender morsels and crunchy tidbits that never suffers from the dryness that plagues so many others. Don't forget to ask for some of their signature hot sauce to drizzle inside your sandwich.

The appetizers and salads are stellar as well. Hummus masbacha ($5.95) lands at the table looking like an alien landscape with lakes and rivers of green olive oil winding their way through mountains of mashed chickpeas capped with a dusting of zahtar. Kibbeh ($5.95), deep-fried miniature footballs of cracked wheat packed around a mixture of ground beef, raisins and Moroccan spices are also a standout. Often a pallid affair, chopped Israeli salad (small, $4; large, $6) is a vibrantly fresh combination of green and red peppers, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes that sings with flavor.

On any given night one will find the restaurant packed with Israeli families watching television from the homeland via satellite and enjoying such Yemenite specialties as as melawach ($4) - a multi-layered sheet of thin crispy baked dough served with a tomato sauce studded with hard-boiled egg.

The more carnivorous among the patrons may even be ordering items from the grill that gives this place its name. With rib-eye steak ($22.95), lamb chops ($22.95) and schnitzel ($14) there's certainly no lack of choice. But my favorite flesh at this spot is the plainly named beef kabob ($15). I say plainly named because the two skewers are actually chunks of deliciously turned out hanger steak.

If you're looking to cap off your meal, whether it was a meatfest or something a tad lighter, I can think of nothing better than the home-made baklava. With its light texture and subtle sweetness it's a much-needed departure from the standard version, like so many things at this charming spot.

Regular TimesLedger dining critic Suzanne Parker's column will return next week.

On the Grill

96-102 Queens Boulevard

Forest Hills

Cuisine: Yemenite Israeli

Setting: A cozy dining room

Service: Charming and accommodating.

Hours: Mon.-Thurs.,12 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri 12 p.m.-

4 p.m.; Sat., open at night; Sun. 12:30 p.m.-11

p.m Sunday through Thursday:

6 a.m. to 1 a.m.;

Fridays and Saturdays: 24 hours

Reservations: No

Alcohol: Liquor license pending

Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Children: Yes. Offers children's menu

Music: Live music on Mondays

Takeout: Yes

Private parties: Not in-house, but private

catering is available

Credit cards: American Express, Discover,

MasterCard and Visa

Noise level: Acceptable

Handicap accessible: No step to enter, but

bathrooms are quite narrow

Recommended Dishes

Falafel plate: $5.95

Kibbeh: $5.95

Chopped Israeli salad: small, $4; large, $6

Humus masbacha: $5.95

Shwarma: pita, $6.50; wrap, $8; platter, $13

Beef kabob: $15

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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