The Ramadan Buffet at Olive Tree is a month-long occurrence every year during Ramadan.
These Medjool dates are chewy and sweet—the perfect morsel to keep the edge off of hunger while waiting in line.
Olive Tree's hummus is a creamy mixture of garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon, and garlic, topped with a dash of paprika.
The thick, slightly tart labne at Olive Tree is sprinkled with chopped pine nuts, and makes a great condiment for the rice dishes and meats.
This souped-up version of eggplant dip, also known as baba ghanoush, is blended with tahini and garlic. It's smoky and very rich (possibly even too rich for my tastes).
Labne with Eggplant
The velvety yogurt is tart and creamy, which is nicely offset by the sweetness of the tender eggplant.
The falafel is a deep green and comes served with mild yogurt and spicy-sweet chili sauce. I had high hopes for this dish, but it suffered from "buffet-syndrome:" sitting out at room temperature for too long and sadly losing its crisp exterior.
Onion and Spinach Pakora
These pakoras combine onion and spinach, which still taste good at room temperature, though I can't help but wish they were served piping-hot straight out of the fryer.
Skip over the potato starches like fried potatoes and (most likely) frozen french fries, and save room for the better dishes.
The traditional fattoush salad laced with pita chips was crisp and extra-lemony, if slightly too astringent.
Spicy Tomato with Fresh Chiles and Cheese
I don't know if this is a traditional dish, but it was surprisingly delicious. The fresh tomato was punctuated by the piquant spiciness of the minced green chiles, and the salty cheese on top gave the dish a mellow roundness.
Spicy Chicken Wings
These deep-fried chicken wings are moist inside, with a thin, crispy coating fragrant with garlic. Tasty, but not as exciting as some other dishes.
Roasted lamb spleen stuffed with garlic, cilantro and chiles. The dark flavor of the spleen is lifted by the aromatic stuffing. We had never eaten anything like it before. This kind of dish is what we came to Olive Tree to try.
Carmelized Onion and Lentil Polow
This dish was a big winner —the buttery caramelized onions and the tender lentils studded throughout work beautifully with the texture of the fluffy rice. We got seconds of this one.
Saffron Polow (Rice Pilaf)
This buttery saffron polow is sprinkled with onion bits and almonds, but the flavors work better as a complement to the mains than a standout dish on their own.
The lentil soup was thin and weakly flavored. I could understand eating it as a counterpoint to the other richer and more flavorful foods offered, but we didn't see much of a point to the soup after a spoonful or two.
Top Middle: Phyllo Dough with Potato, Cheese or Beef
The phyllo triangles filled with potato and cheese were both tangy and creamy, and we gobbled those up quickly. The beef triangle, however, was slightly dry on the inside.
Far Right: Mansaf Stewed Lamb in Fermented Yoghurt
Jordanian mansaf is lamb shanks and ribs slow-cooked in jameed, or preserved sheep's milk yogurt. The result is very rich and creamy, and the meat is fork-tender.
Bottom Right: Fasoulia Nashfe, aka Tomato and White Beans with Lamb
This dish reminded us of a thick Tuscan-style soup. The sweet, acidic flavor of the tomato broth was decent, but not impressive enough to warrant a second helping.
Bottom middle: Bulgar
The bulgar was well-cooked and had a great texture and nutty flavor, but it didn't wind up standing out in the vast assortment of other dishes.
Top Left: Lamb Shank
The lamb shank was everything as promised. The tender and fatty meat fell off the bone. The flavor was unctuous.
Top Middle: Pita
The pita bread was a disappointment. It was obviously store-bought, and we neglected it throughout the meal.
Top Middle Right: Musakhan Chicken Roll
Musakhan chicken is strongly flavored with sumac and garlic. The mixture is shredded and rolled up in bread, brushed in oil, and baked. The result was tasty, but a bit dry.
Bottom Left: Half Chicken
The chicken was marinated in lemon and spices. The result was juicy and delicious, but still played second fiddle to the other, more exotic mains.