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Sep 7, 2001 07:34 PM

Shoopra Assyrian in SF

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Bring a flashlight if you try this place after sundown!

All we tasted were the vegetarian selections, though if the menu had offered a more Middle Eastern-accented lamb selecton or two, I might have been tempted. Alas, only beef and chicken.

A complimentary dip of thickened but kind of flat-tasting (I rarely think food needs salt, but maybe in this instance) and crackerlike flat bread started our meal.

It is funny, but being pretty much deprived of one sense--sight--does alter the ability to relate to a meal, so I feel this is a partial account. Hummos--5--was considerably runnier than most versions, thus harder to keep on the pita and off one's lap, and, though it tasted pretty good, was the first in memory where the garlic came back on me hours later. The garnish of sliced tomato belied the fact that it's the heart of tomato season. Salata--4--was redolent of excellent, fruity olive oil. It consisted of very good fresh romaine, cukes, fair pita croutons, and, according to the menu but not noticeable really, parsley, dried mint, and green onion. The acid was provided by only lemon, which I found pleasing and refreshing.

Falafel, available as a sandwich for 8, was $9 for--can't remember if it was 3 or 4 largish balls that were a touch mealier (almost mashed potatolike) in texture than I'm accustomed to but featured a nice black peppery heat and grew on me as I ate them. They were served with runny yogurt and some diced cucumber.

Both my friend and I liked Dolma--11--best: several long cabbage fingers filled with rice, parsley, onions, dill, and tomatoes. The cabbage had a sauerkrautlike flavor I found very appealing.

My glass of unidentified Cotes du Rhone for about 4.50 left something to be desired, but I drank it.

The waiter--I think the son of the owners--replied to my query about the origins of the baklava (don't have the price) that a friend of his mother made them. We got two different-looking slices, neither worth "writing home about"--a bit dry and a not as honeyed or melt-in-the-mouth as those I prefer.

For those who live in the area--the restaurant's at 3301 Buchanan, north of Lombard--or who have other reasons to hunt for elusive parking, Shoopra is worth a try simply to support a bootstrap-seeming effort, but, regretfully, I really can't say it's worth a special trip.

P.S. It's a tiny place--maybe 8 or 9 tables with an open kitchen. It does take credit cards and is open from noon till 11 PM with everything available for take-out. 415-614-9300

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  1. I tried out Shoopra for lunch last Saturday and found the food quite good.

    The lunch menu is rather limited, but I started out with the rizza (a rice and celery soup). The soup had a very buttery taste to it, but was otherwise not distinguished. Served with the lunch was a sliced pita bread with a tasty cucumber and yogurt dip.

    The high point was the chicken kabob sandwich. The chicken meat (seemed like it was mostly dark meat), was grilled and spiced (mildly) to perfection. It came wrapped in a pita bread with onions. The only problem I had was that the pita bread was so stuffed with chicken that it fell apart while I was wolfing it down. Also on the plate was a simple dressed salad.

    I too had the baklava. While both types were good, I preferred the one that was layered (more traditional). I agree that it is served dry, but I actually found that to better than the typical presentation which has the baklava swimming in a syrup and overpowering the taste of the phyllo dough. In this presentation, the buttery richness of the dough was apparent.

    I would say the restaurant was good enough for a return visit -- I would like to try other items on the menu such as the beef kabob (perhaps as a meal over rice rather than as a sandwich).

    11 Replies
    1. re: Peter Yee

      Nice post, Peter, thanks for adding the counterpoint.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Thank you!

        Shoopra was just one of those restaurants I had to try -- after hearing Narsai David mention it on KCBS and then being prodded into going there after reading the Chronicle review, how could I not give it a whirl? Besides, just how many other Assyrian restaurants are there out there?

        My only Assyrian regret -- living 1/2 mile from Narsai's for years and never going there. (Yeah, yeah, I know, the food at Narsai's wasn't Assyrian.)

        1. re: Peter Yee

          Ah, but Narsai's signature lamb marinated in pomegranite juice was.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            That would be his "Lamb Ragout Flavored with Pomegranate Juice"? Sounds good (looking at the recipe in "Monday Night's at Narsai's"). Looks pretty easy to prepare. Argh, yet another dish to add to the queue of things to prepare. :-)

            1. re: Peter Yee

              I have that cookbook at home somewhere, but I was thinking of rack of lamb. It could have been Jennifer Wilson who mentioned that you can buy the marinade ready made.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                You're right (of course), there is a rack of lamb recipe with pomegranate juice. So I guess I have a choice on which one to make depending on what sort of lamb I have on hand.

                Going to have to track down that marinade. Never having worked with pomegranates, I don't know how much trouble they are to turn into juice!

                1. re: Peter Yee

                  Making pomegranate juice is one of the most exasperating things I've ever tried to do. I mashed those little capsules with a mortar and pestle, I used a juicer, I pressed them through a mesh strainer. It's really a thankless job, plus it takes loads and loads of pomegranates to get an appreciable amount of juice.

                  There are probably other suppliers, but Knudsen makes an organic pomegranate juice that only contains pomegranate. Works great in all the recipes I've tried it in.



                  1. re: Beth Pizio

                    That's a relief to know -- I feared obtaining the juice was going to be something of a trial. Thanks for the pointer!

          2. re: Peter Yee
            Zach Georgopoulos

            "Besides, just how many other Assyrian restaurants are there out there?"

            I don't know if Yaya is still around. I ate there when it was on 9th Ave, and it was damned good. But then it moved downtown and I could never find it again. It may have closed.

            1. re: Peter Yee

              He made the best cheesecakes I've ever had, at the basement of the old I Magnin store on U. Square. Big slice, smooth middle and a slightly harder crust, and a hint of orange from the zest...