Friday, October 23, 2009

Sahara - Guess the ethnicity!

If you guessed Middle Eastern, you're right!
Anyway, we have driven past this restaurant (on C street in midtown) quite a few times, but just never got around to it until this evening. Which is odd, because we really like middle eastern food in general.
Anyway. Although Sahara doesn't look like much from the outside, inside it is quite nice, with a tasteful smattering of hoke accented by an enormous TV on the wall playing Arabic TV (MBC ?), which we could not understand but which we found mesmerizing anyway. If you are familiar with middle eastern food, the menu will not hold much that is startling for you - and that's a good thing. If you are not familiar, all the menu items are well described, and vegetarian options are clearly marked.
While we perused our menus, our waitress brought us spicy, fried pita chips and a savory tomato-based dip - it was delicious and we devoured it in minutes flat. Mr EA and I decided on a Shish Kebab Combo for 2 and also a small pot of Arabic coffee. First out was a big plate of salad, which was a nice mix of greens, herbs, and a very light vinaigrette-like dressing. Next was a big plate of hummus, accented with a decorative pattern of parsley, paprika and olive oil and an accompanying basket of warm pitas. I had the hummus to myself, as Mr EA flatly refuses to try it. But that was OK - it was great! It has a very smooth texture, a rich taste with just a hint of bitterness.... Mmmmmm! Hummus!
Then came the main course - a platter of kebabed meat and a big platter of rice. The meat included chicken, lamb, and kafta (which has a semi-unfortunate appearance, but tastes great). The chicken was lightly coated with a yogurt and paprika sauce and grilled to juicy perfection. The lamb is lightly spiced as well and nicely grilled - just done enough. The kafta had a good mix of meat, onions, and herbs and also was crispy but not dry. The rice was a treat as well, cooked to a soft texture but not mushy and lightly spiced with cinnamon and/or cardamom. (How can I not say for sure? There was a lot going on in that meal.) The coffee was perfect as well - black as midnight on a moonless night (that's pretty dark....), and very lightly sweetened with a caramelized, burnt- sugar taste. Although at this point we were afraid to eat even a wafer-thin portion of anything, we split an order of baklava. It too was perfect. Flaky, crisp filo, a good layer of nuts, and just enough syrup throughout to sweeten it, but not enough to make it soggy and limp.
So all in all, if you like middle eastern food, or you are feeling adventurous enough to try it out, check out Sahara. You'll be glad you did!

1 comment:

Baked Alaska said...

I'm so glad to see a review of this place. I've never seen more than a car or two in the parking lot, so I figured they aren't going to be able to stay in business. I also figured it meant it probably wasn't any good. I'll have to stop by and try it. Thanks for the review.