DINING PROFILE: VASKEN'S DELI

Springfield News-Leader
May 7 2014

Ed Peaco, for the News-Leader

Building on 17 years of success in Branson, Vasken and Staci
Haroutounian recently opened another Vasken's Deli in Battlefield
Marketplace, specializing in Mediterranean fare and providing hearty
flavors with great variety and value.

The food includes Vasken Haroutounian's dishes based on his
Lebanese-Armenian heritage, as well as Greek entrees and salads and
standard sandwiches, most of which are priced to compete with typical
lunch menus across town. Vasken Haroutounian said his restaurant
stands apart with his focus on flavor.

"Once people come and eat our food -- that's all it takes, just one
time -- they will say, 'My goodness, where have we been all this time?'
" The Haroutounians, who have 27 years of experience in the restaurant
business, said the food is made from scratch using healthy ingredients
and cooking methods.

Vasken Haroutounian brought out dishes that mostly emphasized the
Lebanese aspect of the menu. For example, the deli offers a Greek gyro,
but he suggested the Lebanese version, known as shawerma.

Shawerma ($6.99): Seasoned beef brisket (or chicken) served on pita
bread with tahini, green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles.

Touches of cinnamon and cloves in the brisket seasonings created a
levitating effect of flavor and aroma. The pasta salad that came with
the sandwich was seasoned with garlic, parsley, Italian seasonings
and basil, as well as a touch of Aleppo pepper with medium heat,
from Syria.

Combo platter ($9.99): Hummus, babaganoush, stuffed grape leaves and
falafel, with tahini, tzatziki, feta, olives, tomatoes and toasted
pita. Listed on the menu as an appetizer, this plentiful platter could
be a pass-around starter or an entree for someone with a big appetite.

It was a great way to sample a range of tastes. It included:

* Falafel: Robustly seasoned with onion, parsley, garlic and cumin.

With tahini for dipping.

* Grape leaves: Mildly seasoned with parsley and onion, with creamy
rice inside, accompanied by tzaziki, a sauce of cucumber and yogurt.

* Hummus: Smooth and creamy, with a garlic presence that was less than
ferocious. Easing off the garlic was intentional, Vasken Haroutounian
said. "For a lot of Americans, I have to be careful. They do like
garlic, but not like the Middle Easterners."

* Babaganoush: Boldly smoky. Vasken said he achieves this result by
burning the skin of the eggplant to a black ash and blending a little
of it into the mix.

* Feta: This domestic Greek cheese from cows' milk made a mellower
feta.

* Kalamata olives: These full-flavored olives were imported from
Greece.

Greek salad (small $4.99, large $6.99): This salad had all the Greek
elements that cry out for individual attention: cucumber, bell pepper,
red onion and peppercini. Feta cheese and Kalamata olives provided
body. The olive oil dressing came with seasonings settled at the
bottom of the sauce cup. Be sure to stir or shake so you won't miss
out on those flavors.

Coffee ($1.99): Vasken brought out his coffee service and made Armenian
coffee from a powdered dark roast. While cardamom imparted an exotic
effect, the great strength of the coffee brought me firmly back to
earth. Sugar softened the overall effect. "You can't beat this coffee,
my friend," Vasken said.

Desserts: The baklava ($1.99) was more flaky than syrupy, and the
cashew fingers (99 cents) were light and not too sweet. These desserts
go great with the strong coffee.

Vasken's Deli Where: 900 E. Battlefield Road Hours: 11 a.m.-8
p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday Call: 417-888-0083 Web:
vaskensdeli.com Email: [email protected]

http://www.news-leader.com/story/life/food/2014/05/06/dining-profile-vaskens-deli/8779599/