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2008-11-06

>the "common", the "ascetic", and the "unknown" dates

An offering of a wineglassful of Mujhoolah ("unknown") dates.

Plump and sweet, the gigantic medjools, courtesy of the chef, were greatly appreciated at the end of the meal, accompanied by mint tea, and roused thoughts of an Arabian bazaar بازار, of endless displays of dates (Phoenix dactylifera); sayer ("common"), zahidi ("ascetic"), ajwa (عجوة)... etc. etc.

Unexpected warmth flowed out of newly opened "Zaki Kabob House" on a forlorn stretch of San Pablo Avenue in Albany, California. No doubt it was a fast food location, I thought, but upon looking up, learned that this boxy space used to be "Taxi Brousse", a Senegalese restaurant until a few months ago. I happened to have a hankering for some tabouli (tabouleh? tabbouleh? تبولة‎;?) and baba ganoush (baba ghanoush? baba ghannouj? بابا غنوج?) so this place offering "delectable Mediterranean cuisine" was a perfectly timed discovery. "Zaki" apparently means "delicious".

A garrulous large chef personally greeted his customers, as did the other members of this congenial family. He reminded me of the jolly but fearsome butcher I saw somewhere near Rome. He wouldn't feel out of place in The Sopranos. (Turns out the family is Palestinian.)

Despite the graceless layout and its surroundings ("a new Whole Foods will be coming in across the street") the setting is somewhat softened with drapes and track lighting. We were given a "test menu" (halal), with generic kabob plates, "Jerusalem rotisserie chicken" plates, burgers and falafel wraps, "veggie lover plates". A delicious meal overall. I've decided not to pick on their hummus (houmous? humus? حمّص?) until I try it again, as the chef is planning an ambitious menu with special dishes (including an okra stew called bamya - did I just bury the lede?) and I plan to return.