Ali Baba's on Valencia "ohzi" - baked filo w/lamb,pinenuts &rice
Yesterday, had my monthly Mission District exploration. After an excellent lunch at Lotus Garden, 3216 Mission, with Vietnamese crepe, smoky-tasting dry fried green beans, chicken grilled at the table and clay pot of shrimp in coconut milk, I trekked up Mission and then Valencia, stopping in three or four thrift shops along the way.
At Ali Baba's Cave Mediterranean Cafe at 799 Valencia (at 17th or 18th Street) in addition to the regular fare, I picked up an "Ohzi Al-sham" to go for $4.50 and it was one of the most delicious Middle Eastern dishes I've ever had. It's baked filo, about 5 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep, probably weighing about 1 lb. Stuffed with lamb, pine nuts, basmati rice, almonds and peas, it had flavors of sumac and the bottom of the file was soaked with a spicy, pepper-infused oil. According to their menu, it's based on a recipe from Damascus. They also had a vegetarian version that looked like it had a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top.
Has anyone seen something like this anywhere else?
I've had the baked filo basteeya at Tajine on Jones St. but that was much wider and sweetened with powdered sugar. I read about the mosakhan at GFC Chicken on Mission near 29th or 30th Street but it sounds like it didn't have the peppery oil of ohzi and was wrapped on lavosh, not filo.
I did a Google search for "Ohzi" and nothing relevant came up. A search on the SF Chowhound board didn't turn up anything.
Is anybody familiar with "Ohzi?"
They also have a location on Haight near Fillmore where they have the Ohzi. The do a veggie one too if I'm not mistaken. One caveat, sometime they sit on the steamtable are too long and the bottom of the pastry gets tough and chewy. I've had them 2 or 3 times. Usually they're pretty good but can get dried out.
Update: Walked by today and spotted these phyllo "purses" on the counter. Had one with lamb. Completely delicious! Aromatic spiced rice with nuts and tender braised lamb. A comforting delicious meal for around $5.50 ($8.50 for a complete meals, as shown here). I've eaten plenty of Arabic food, and the tastes of nuts and allspice and meltaway lamb are all familiar, but wrapped up like this made it moist and tasty. (Love it with something yogurt-y.)
Ohzi al Sham is still a winner, despite not knowing its origins.