Ziryab [San Francisco]
Last night my friend and I ate at Ziryab, a newish Middle Eastern place on Divisadero in Western Addition. The interior was more upscale than most of the schwarma factories I've been to in SF, with archways and warm lighting.
On to the food: As an appetizer we split the meza platter, which included hummus, babaganous, dolmas, olives, tabbouleh, cucumber yogurt drizzled with olive oil, and little hunks of feta, served alongside a plate of warm pita. The platter was delicious; the flavors fresh and distinct, unlike the muddled-tasting mashes I've had at other restaurants. For dinner I had a bowl of lentil soup, which was simple and delicious. My friend had one of the specials, a vegetable tajine. The vegetables were underseasoned and a bit bland. She finished only half.
Along with dinner, we each had a glass of Tempranillo, which clocked in at $5.50. There was a pretty impressive wine list with about 5 wines by the glass, but surprisingly only one red was served by the glass that evening. Service was friendly, but slow.
The weaknesses seemed to me like things that could be smoothed out over time. I will be back to weed through more of the entrees.
Also of note: they have a little patio out front where you can eat and smoke hookah.
Too long a wait last night at NOPA (which by the way should really be NEOPA, or just WA), on the way back to the car passed Ziryab, looked and smelled good, tried it.
Mezze platter for two ($13) had falafels, hot dolmas, baba ganoush, yogurt with cucumbers, feta with zatar, all first-rate, plus hummus and tabouleh that were good but not quite in the same league. Arales ($6, spiced ground lamb on focaccia) and spinach sauteed with garlic confit ($7) were also very tasty. I was really disappointed that they were out of kibbeh, don't see that around much.
Chicken shawerma wrap ($8) was delicious, better than Truly Mediterranean's. By comparison I wasn't as impressed by the chicken kebab plate ($12) but it was good too, nicely marinated and served on saffrony couscous.
Service was friendly but amateurish. Food all arrived promptly but we were thirsty on several occasions.
If I remember what the server said correctly, the owner's Palestinian and lived in Jordan, and the chef is Moroccan, which helps explain the range of the menu (tajine, zatar, kibbeh).
I've been several times, and each visit has been more pleasant than the last. The food gets better, although the service has always been the same: friendly, but a bit forgetful here and there. They also have good beers on tap.
The chicken kebab, while it might sound pedestrian, is exceptional. Give it a try next time you go.