Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

arabic fusion at saha in sf...

After watching the glowing reviews about Saha on a recent episode of Check Please Bay Area we made sure to add it to our ongoing "restaurants to try" list. We decided that the most opportune time to try this Yemenese Arabic inspired joint was my upcoming bday dinner.

Being located in the Tenderloin is one thing, but this place resided in the indistinct Hotel Carlton on Sutter between Larkin and Hyde. Who would have thunk it for a place with a 26 rating for food by Zagat! Despite the immediate surroundings we walked in to the restaurant on a cold Friday evening with open minds and empty stomachs.

The ambiance is casual romantic - colorful light fixtures, red sheer drapes, dark wood tables, and Mediterranean music playing in the background. The crowd was a mix of couples and young families, definitely off the beaten path for tourists. The menu is chalked full of wonderful sounding mezes, salads, entrees, desserts. Even more, a majority of their dishes can be made vegan! After consulting with our waiter, we narrowed down the order to three mezes and one dessert. Note they also have a vegetarian pre-fix menu available for $35 per person (one meze, one entree, and one dessert).

Avocado tomato tabbouleh salad ($10) - I felt that too it was too tangy, but Sheila thought it had the perfect balance of flavors. I couldn't taste the actual tabbouleh and was hoping for some texture / crunch; perhaps some toasted pita chips. Sheila surprisingly was not bothered by the abundance of avocados, which she doesn’t typically enjoy. We both agreed that this surprisingly filling dish as a starter salad. Sheila would definitely order this dish again (it was the special of the evening), but I would probably try one of their other salads because they all sounded great.

Saha’s ravioli ($12) - Four large moons of ravioli stuffed with shitake mushrooms and mint in a sweet mango sauce. Although rather sweet, there was a distinct spiciness that came from the addition of red chili flakes. Dispite the size of each ravioli, this overall diss was actually light. The ravioli was well cooked (not al dente as you’d expect from an Italian version) and the stuffing well seasoned. A complete bit including the ravioli and sauce was a great ying and yang balance of savory and sweet. However, if you just had the sauce itself, it would have tasted like melted spicy mango ice cream. Interesting to say the least and worth a repeat order.

Malfufa ($12) – Baked phyllo stuffed with potatoes, sage, garlic, and olive oil. This was essentially a circular bake samosa; a good savory dish in flavor but with the thick wrapper and the potato quantity this came across as very starchy. There was also a leban and mustard sauce underneath the malfufa. It was quite tangy, but there just wasn’t enough of it. We both would not other this again since there are similar phyllo dishes that include more veggies.

Knaffe ($8) - Shredded phyllo bake that was drizzled with honey and nuts. Sound great, right? However in the middle it had this melted salty Arabic cheese, which totally killed the dish. It’s the equivalent of using cheddar cheese in a cheesecake. A mascarpone or cream cheese of sorts would have been much better compliment for this baklava-esque dish. I have to admit that our server recommended it, so bottom line is go with your instinct when it comes to dessert!

All in all, Saha is a nice Mediterranean restaurant with a huge selection of vegetarian dishes. It’s one of those places that you could order something new each time, which is probably what will do next go around. Yes, there will be a next time as beside the awful dessert, Sheila and I have been craving a Gem replacement, and Saha might be it. For those who know of our London days, Gem was the local Kurdish spot that we frequented at least 20 times in two years! On that, check out Saha and be adventurous with your order.

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