By Janet Gibson
Photography by Cindy Burnham
“You’ve got the perfect thing going on,” says our server Jaedon, who is dressed in black from head to toe and possesses dark, mischievous eyes.
He has laid down a beautifully presented Mediterranean “sampler” platter – a feast that captures us with color and texture – right down to the most minute details. Baba ghanouj topped with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, hummus in a moat of extra-virgin olive oil, stuffed grape leaves drizzled with lemon juice, light and crispy Egyptian falafel, positively addictive tzatziki sauce (made in-house as are all the sauces), and a Pharoahs’ specialty, pickled turnips. The latter are a bit salty for our tastes but add a magnificent burst of red to the presentation. To scoop it all up: pita bread fresh from the oven.
Perfection on a platter – and then some – is par for the course at Pharoahs Legacy, just down from the Gates Four golf community in the Traemoor Village shopping center.
If the Pharoahs name sounds familiar, there’s good reason. In 2014, with his brother Sam, chef/owner Ronnie Askharon opened his more casual Mediterranean eatery and market, called Pharoahs Village, on Hope Mills Road. His latest creation, Pharoahs Legacy, is an upscale restaurant, complete with authentic Egyptian art, a happening bar and a well-chosen wine list.
The new restaurant opened in late November in a space formerly occupied by Pierro’s Italian Bistro. The buzz escalated on the restaurant’s Facebook page after videos posted of a New Year’s Eve celebration featuring Yara Sultan, a striking belly dancer who is scheduled to perform select dates in February and the coming months. (Call
910-835-5472 for times and schedules.) It also didn’t hurt that the dishes looked mouth-watering good.
Askharon believes his timing couldn’t be better, given that the Mediterranean diet is showing up in various studies as tops in the healthy category, and not just for our hearts but for our waistlines, too.
The self-taught chef is influenced by dishes from his native Egypt, plus other countries, including Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Syria. He began cooking at age 14, when he would test dishes on family members, to get honest reactions. Those dishes ranged from appetizers for sharing, called mezze, to traditional desserts, such as honey-rich walnut or pistachio baklava. But his interest in cooking peaked while he was serving with the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces as a language translator and instructor. He would try out different marinades and meats on his comrades – and then finetune his techniques.
The Pharoahs Legacy experience speaks of Askharon’s attention to detail and, as his staff echoes, “He’s a perfectionist.”
On a recent Wednesday, the lunchtime crowd was multicultural, multigenerational and happy. Egyptian music played in the background. Michelle Smith and her husband, Tracy, were enjoying a noontime date. He had the lamb gyro (pronounced yee-row), and she was nibbling on a platter dubbed the King Tut, featuring chargrilled beef, chicken and lamb kebobs served over basmati saffron rice, with grilled onions, tomatoes and green bell peppers, topped with house-made tahini sauce; and pita bread for scooping.
Both gave the thumbs-up and promised to return.
Double that order.
* The place: Pharoahs Legacy, 3010 Traemoor Village Drive, Suite 100, Western Cumberland County (near Jack Britt High School).
* Specialties: Mediterranean cuisine, including favorites such as hummus, gyros, beef, lamb or chicken kebobs, the Greek lamb burger, and baklava. Arabic or Turkish coffee also is served.
Children’s menu available. Also, catering services.
* Prices: Moderate. Entrees $8 to $30.
* Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
* Reservations: Accepted. Call 910-835-5472.