about a week ago i went down to san francisco to hang out with family and meet up with a friend that i hadn't seen since last august. the day happened to be quite blustery, making our walk to upper haight from a bar off divisadero quite perilous. K led us to a cozy hookah bar on haight called Kan Zamen. the dark door opened up to quite a large dining room with a (shoju-)stocked bar and elevated area with pillowed banquettes. we decided to sit at the low tables to enjoy some tasties.
we decided on the "maza plus" combination, meaning we could choose three cold and two hot maza (appetizer dishes) from the list of about 10-12 options. we placed our order and sat back to survey our surroundings.
the bar was pretty interesting. they only served shoju "cocktails" since, i'm assuming, they don't have a full liquor license. beer, wine, and shoju...they had shoju mojitos, cosmos, all sorts of desperate libations on the chalkboard. also, if you want to smoke, you have to sit at the bar. sigh.
i ordered a "middle eastern tea" not quite knowing what to expect. i figured it would be dark and strong...much like their coffee. what i got was a lovely glass mug of loose, black tea with some refreshing mint leaves floating on top. it was delicious and lightly sweetened to perfection. i want to make this at home. now i just need to invest in some glass mugs so i don't burn my finger tips off. yowza!
service was extremely attentive (filling water glasses several times) and quick. we were only chatting for several minutes by the time the first plates came out. clockwise from top, we ordered hummus, babaghanous, cold cucumber/yogurt salad, hot lentils, and falafel.
the hummus was M's favorite...garlicky and earthy as a hummus should be. the babaghanous was excellent, too...completely lacking that bitter flavor eggplant gets when prepared improperly. the texture was nice, not mush, and smoky. it's making me want to throw a couple of whole, oiled eggplants into my oven right now!
the cucumber salad was BOMB. tart, chilly yogurt spiced up with garlic, salt, lemon, dill, awesome, and a dash of omg. i love tzaziki and all, but this was more of a salad with bigger chunks of cucumber. i loved every bite and mixed it with everything. i couldn't get this simple dish out of my head all week, and the past couple of days i've made my own version with bay shrimp in the mix for dinner. major holy ess when i added a little bit of cap'n kipp's hot sauce.
the lentils were great, too. they were mother-effing-i-just-burned-my-mouth hot (just the way i like my food!), satisfying, and full of that umami heartiness. i shoveled spoonfuls of this with that cucumber salad on many-a-bite of freshly grilled, steamy pita.
the falafel were good, yet somewhat forgettable compared to the lentils and cucumber dishes. they were crispy, hot, and playfully green with parsley. cracking one open was like staring straight into the door of the irish emigrant on st patty's day.
we all loved every last bite of food and convinced ourselves that we needed to try a couple more. M and K savored the spicy sausage which really looked like a sliced beef hot dog that was sizzled with green onions. i have no idea what it was or where it came from, but both M and K said that it was the shit and way better than a dizzog. my choice was the rice and yellow lentil combo served with a tomato salad and cucumber yogurt. if i knew from the get that the cucumber salad was the truth, i would've ordered the rice&lentil dish all for myself. it was spicy and laced with fenugreek seed. holy crap. so good.
we were all stuffed beyond belief, and including tip, we got out of there for $55. that sounds like a pretty hefty check, but M also had a couple beers, and all three of us basically ate a really early dinner/latelate lunch and had to roll out of there.
if i lived in sf, i would return, but since sf is but a place for vacations and family visits, there are so many other places to try that i probably won't be back for a while. le sigh!