Quite a while back (perhaps over five years ago) I visited Salam Restaurant Salam Restaurant with some co-workers. The food can best be described as “Arabic” because the menu walks around the Middle Eastern region, looking for a home. There is Turkish, Moroccan, and Syrian dishes (plus others). We went for the basics: a few appetizers, grilled meats, and drinks. I left being wholly unimpressed, writing off the place as over-priced, average food with slow service. Fast forward from then to about a year ago, when Jessica started telling about a great restaurant with hearty food, perfect for winter. So last night when Jessica’s close, childhood friend, Yumiko, was in town, we decided to check out the place. So off to Salam we went, and I was surprised when I realized it was the same place I had written off so many years ago.

We sat in the back of the restaurant and started with some babaganonouj (baba ghanoush), warm pita (not freshly made), and some crisp bread (manakish) liberally coated with za’atar (a lemony mix of herbs and spices). While the manakish was very tasty, the baba ghanoush was very acidic, even for Jessica (who enjoys more acidic foods than I do), and the pita as warm but not homemade. Fortunately, we also ordered the kibbee (kibbeh) and it was excellent. Nevertheless, as we patiently waited for our entrees, I started thinking, “oh great, just as I remembered.”

Then the entrees arrived, and things completely turned around. We ordered three dishes for the three of us to share. The chicken-filled Ouzi (phyllo dough stuffed with rice, minced meat, raisins, yogurt, and lots of spices) and lamb macloubee (tender lamb simmered with tomato sauce and layered with eggplant and rice, cooked in a pot and then turned out onto a plate) arrived first, both were enormous portions. We couldn’t hold back, and the three of us rushed the dishes. Each was better than the previous.

The ouzi was sensational! I couldn’t stop eating it. It was a great blend of spices, creamy inside, with a bit of rice and minced chicken, and crispy on the outside. It was savory and a bit sweet (because of the raisins).

The macloubee was another winner. The lamb was so tender, flaking apart, while the eggplant was not oily and still firm. The rice was perfectly cooked with just enough tomato sauce to pull the dish together, but not so much that it would be stew-like.

After a few more minutes, the Salmon Curry showed up. While I have to admit that the salmon was slightly overcooked, it tasted outstanding with the creamy sauce on top. I would not describe this dish as curry to any one else, as curry typically implies the abundant use of strong spices, typically found in East Asian cuisines (like Indian), and is not really a term used in Middle Eastern cooking. This dish was far more subtle, but flavorful. The plate was dressed with nicely cooked spinach, which included some type of pickled vegetable (we think), which none of us could identify.

The prices turned out to be very reasonable. The three of us were absolutely stuffed, and there was more than enough food for an entire additional meal (that still tasted good today). This is definitely a case where I’m thrilled I gave a restaurant a second chance; perhaps time improved the place, or the different dishes made the difference. Either way, I recommend you give Salam a first chance.

posted by Lon at 09:33 PM Filed under Middle Eastern, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.