Monday, March 3, 2008

Outer Borough Eating Club -Yemen Cafe

So maybe given the fact that it took almost a year after moving to Carroll Gardens for me to make it to the much anticipated Yemen Cafe, it is appropriate that it's taken over a week to report on my first sublime encounter with this Atlantic Avenue den of deliciousness.

But two Fridays ago, 7 of us made the trek through the rainy Brooklyn streets to sample some of what is hailed to be the best lamb in the borough. Luckily, I had called earlier in the restaurant earlier in the day to check on its BYOB status, quickly realizing that this place was the real deal and that alcohol was not allowed. Although dissapointing, the alcohol probably would have served as a distraction from the feast that was about to unfold.

Right after we placed our order, they brought us two complimentary treats

Lamb soup and a house salad

The verdict: the salad was surprisingly fresh, with a really nice dressing; the soup was sublime; salty and rich, a thin broth into which we squeezed lemon juice that as my friend Nina pointed out would be the perfect remedy when sick. We were off to a good start.

We moved on to some appetizers, which were served with this bread:

The verdict: amazing; it was warm and soft and chewy; with little crunchy brown bits; as soon as we came close to finishing one, another piping hot pieces would emerge; I easily could have eaten a full loaf (for lack of a better word) of this all on my own, and through the course of the meal, I probably did...

Hommus w/ tahini - need I say more?

The verdict: Daniel, the hummus expert, deemed it not as good as the kind we get at Damascus, just across the street from Yemen Cafe on Atlantic, but he wasn't turning his nose up at it either; creamy, smooth, and besides, it served as a vehicle for eating more of that bread, so really what's not to like?

Foul madmas - mashed fava beans cooked with olive oil; they came bubbling in this iron pot

The verdict: surprisingly rich for fava beans; thick, warm, savory; and again, I got to dip pieces of that bread in it, so I was very, very happy.

White kidney beans - cooked with tomato and onions

The verdict: this was a favorite of the table; wonderful texture, the beans just on the brink of mush, mixing with the tomatoes to create a kind of hash; really subtle nice flavor, sensational.

Eggs served with tomatoes and onion - Yemen style

The verdict: we'd expected something closer to Israeli style shakshouka, but this was actually closer to Chinese style eggs; scrambled, with big pieces of tomato; it was really nice though, with the lovely hot sauce they kept bringing us, and of course, the BREAD

On to the entrees. Daniel and I split two.

Yemeni House Salta - mixed vegetables and soup houlbeh served with lamb and bread

The verdict: this was another dish in an iron pot; a kind of vegetable puree with fenugreek and on the side a big old piece of lamb; this was very good, very comforting, again pretty subtle flavor; the roasted lamb was a delicious, fall off the bone, melt in your mouth, this is why i love lamb situation

Special Yemini Fateh with Lamb - homeade bread bits cooked in gravy topped with minced lamb

The verdict: for the second time in recent weeks (the first being Sri Lanken) I have learned that flat bread saturated with some sort of meat gravy and spices to the point that it becomes chewy and a little mushy is one of the great wonders of the world; this one was without eggs like the dish I had at Nirvana a couple of weeks ago, but the lack of egg was no problem; the little pieces of lamb were just the right level of chewiness, the gravy itself was rich without being overpowering, and my Lord, there is something that happens to bread in this sort of dish that is just divine. Daniel and I slapped some hot sauce on this bad boy and ate the entire bowl, even though we were stuffed from appetizers.

Yemeni Fateh - homemade bread bits cooked with honey & butter

The verdict: maybe bread for appetizer, bread for main course, and bread for dessert is excessive (but probably not); this had a strange flavor though, which no one at the table could place. It reminded me of French toast. Not sure I'd get it again.

A great evening all together. It's so close to our house, I hope to be back several times before we move. The waiter was lovely and on request gave lots of tips about the proper way to eat the dishes (don't dip the lamb in the salta).

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