Dinner at the Oasis

Fattoush

Middle Easterners tend to overcook their lamb, and just because Fattoush follows that authentic route doesn't mean I have to like it. The chunks in its mansaf are thick and dull, with most of the meat's rich flavors cooked out of them, but the other stuff on the platter is so good it almost makes up for it: a rich, pungent "aged yogurt" sauce (it tastes miles better than it reads) and a mound of sublime almond-studded rice to soak up the flavors. That same well-done lamb stars in shish kebab, the classic Middle Eastern dish. Not only is the meat predictably bland and tough, but the skewered vegetables seem limp and overcooked. You can also get your shish kebab on a combo platter with shish taouk, in which dry, chewy chicken joins the mix. (The barbecue sauce is nice and smoky, though.) Most of these entrees come with the aforementioned nutty, saffron-edged rice pilaf, which could happily make a meal all by itself.

Noe Valley on the Nile: Fattoush is a seductively upholstered oasis in the 
midst of the concrete desert.
Anthony Pidgeon
Noe Valley on the Nile: Fattoush is a seductively upholstered oasis in the midst of the concrete desert.

Location Info

Map

Fattoush

1361 Church
San Francisco, CA 94114

Category: Restaurant > Middle Eastern

Region: Castro/ Noe Valley

Details

Fattoush -- $8
Rihan -- $6
Sultan Ibrahim -- $16
M'sakhan -- $14
Tabsi -- $14
Mint tea -- $4

Open for brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.

Reservations accepted

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: possible

Muni: J

Noise level: mellow

1361 Church (at 26th Street)

641-0678

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Dessert is pistachio baklava, a dry, unsweetened version with little discernible trace of the pastry's glories -- rich butter and fragrant honey. Fortunately the restaurant also serves thimbles of powerful, sludgy Arabian coffee flavored with cardamom as well as tall glasses of mint tea -- the original, primeval mint tea in which the leaves and stalks are plunged into boiling water. To end up with something other than a glass of greenish hot water you have to let the leaves steep a good long time and add at least two cubes of sugar -- Middle Easterners are famous for their sweet-tooth tendencies. Despite the effort, the results are worth it. On a pleasant evening it's nice to enjoy your tea and coffee out on the veranda where the hookah sits, reflecting on the stars and the breeze and enjoying the pleasures of convivial warmth and oasislike hospitality. You'd expect nothing less from the cradle of civilization, yes?

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