Discreet Diner | Cinderella Sabbaba

Posted: June 24, 2007

The Discreet Diner loves to try new places. So, when a Turnersville reader, Denise Gould Ledvina, recommended a Middle Eastern/Indian restaurant named Cinderella Sabbaba, I just had to visit.

I have enjoyed Indian cuisine for many years, although it's not food I eat often. I enlisted a deputy who had never had Indian or Middle Eastern cooking because I wanted to see her reaction.

The deputy and I ventured to the Route 42 restaurant for lunch one late-spring Friday afternoon. Focused on our work, we didn't realize until we were sitting in traffic that we were traveling the route to the Shore! Aargh!

When we reached the place, it was in a strip of storefronts, all featuring a different kind of food - and a closed weight-loss business.

Inside, we were greeted warmly by a man we later discovered is an owner and his daughter, our server. The tables are covered with two cloths, green over white. And our server promptly brought water, with lemon, and our menus.

We decided to try a little of this and a little of that. I preferred to eat from the Indian menu. We started with vegetable samosa ($1.95) and samosa chaat ($4.95), along with falafel ($4.95).

The vegetable samosa was a deep-fried triangular pastry filled with a stuffing of potato, onion and chickpeas. It was served with mint chutney, fired by jalapeno. The samosa had good taste, but the chutney seared the flavor from my mouth. The samosa chaat was two big pieces filled with chicken and chick peas. Served with tamarind, it was excellent. Our nod to the Middle Eastern menu was the falafel, three fried balls of spiced chick peas. They're like meatballs, and were served with a yogurt dipping sauce.

Our entrees came with salads, bowls overflowing with cucumber, red bell pepper, onion, tomato and lettuce. The salad dressing, an oil that stays on the table, was a great topper that enhanced the fresh flavors of the vegetables.

The deputy took my suggestion and ordered the shrimp masala ($12.95). I went for an old favorite, lamb korma ($5.95), which was a luncheon special.

The shrimp masala was beautifully presented, eight plump pink shrimp with a sauce of spices, tomatoes, yogurt, sliced pepper and onion served over basmati rice. All the ingredients were fresh, and they combined for a pleasing, exotic taste. The deputy enjoyed it - "I like Indian food now," she said - and happily packed up leftovers to take home for dinner.

I asked for the lamb korma to be served medium spicy. It was just right for my taste. The meat was tender chunks in a sauce of myriad flavors that has hints of cumin, cilantro, ginger, pine nuts and yogurt. Served on a bed of basmati rice, it was wonderful.

Cinderella Sabbaba has been open 11 months, and is family run by the Cinderellas. The family has been in business for 25 years, mostly in Pennsylvania, and their places are always called Sabbaba, which means "flower" in Lebanese. The women cook.

On Fridays and Saturdays, there is belly-dancing. Reservations are required.

There is much to recommend this place. Ledvina, our reader who suggested it, wrote in her recommendation: "For those of us who have always had to trek . . . for their falafel fix, Cinderella has been a very welcome addition to a community with limited ethnic dining choices."

Discreet Diner | Cinderella Sabbaba

4860 Route 42 North, Turnersville, N.J.

Phone: 856-227-6537.

Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Belly-dancing on Friday and Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m.; reservations required.

Reservations: Available.

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Parking: Lot.

Children's menu: Yes.

Cocktails: BYOB.

The Discreet Diner is a member

of the Inquirer staff and welcomes your comments. E-mail discreetdiner@phillynews.com.

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