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Dec 11, 2007 12:27 PM

Taxi Cab Recs: Palestinian

A couple of months ago a Luxor cabbie recommended Old Jerusalem as a great place for homestyle Middle Eastern eats. I had forgotten about this until today, when a friend echoed the suggestion.

I was surprised by the breadth of the menu, which included way more than the standard shawerma. I asked the waiter for help deciding between the jew's mallow soup and a lamb and white beans entree listed in the "everyday specials" section. The server suggested that I order the special of the day, bamyeh, which I noticed seemed popular with the mostly Arabic-speaking clientele.

The entree was served with several sides, including pickled turnips, little green olives (looked like picholines), tahini mixed with parsley and garlic, and a spicy, tomatoey mix the server described as "Turkish salad."

The tahini was very garlicky and quite good. The Turkish salad was the only really spicy dish I tried; I liked this contrast against the milder dishes.

Bamyeh, the Tuesday special, was chunky of fatty lamb and okra immersed in a rich tomato sauce. This was served alongside a big plate of long grain rice, yellowed by saffron and mixed with chopped parsley.

Pretty much everything on my plate seemed like it had an ingredient that had been featured in the New York Times most emailed health articles over the past year. Antioxidant rich tomatoes? Check. Anti-inflammatory garlic? Check.

I was impressed by the warm service and small touches. Fresh mint leaves were added to my glass of Alwazah tea. The dessert menu was intriguing (shredded wheat over goat cheese with honey was one dish) but I couldn't even eat half of my lunch, so I had to bag everything up and head back to work.

I'll definitely be back.

Another report on Old Jerusalem:

Taxi Cab Recs: Guatemalan:
Taxi Cab Recs: Salvadoran:
Taxi Cab Recs: Moroccan:

Old Jerusalem
2976 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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  1. i've been meaning to explore their daily specials ever since a friend gave me a bite of the friday special. don't know the name, but it was like a really homey beef stew, but fragrant and spicy with arab flavors. i also love their stuffed falafel, fried to order with caramelized onions and pine nuts in the center of each falafel.

    1. For those who wish to know....

      Jew's mallow, a plant (Corchorus olitorius) used as a pot herb by the Jews of Israel, Egypt and Syria

      2 Replies
      1. re: ChowFun_derek

        Do you know how it tastes? I asked the server, and he said "like a vegetable." I didn't get a sense of whether it was a bitter green, or what.

        1. re: pane

          According to Grub Street, it "tastes similar to spinach, but with the mucilaginous quality of okra."

          Sounds like the vegetable from hell, if you ask me.

      2. Love, love, love Old Jersusalem. Everything we've tried is excellent, and I've ordered tons of different dishes from them for a group meeting - nothing left but a couple lonely olives and some puffy flatbread. Do try the desserts next time. Both of them are house made and are excellent.

        1. i just tried the lamb and white beans dish in the "everyday specials" section. i thought i snagged one of their new to-go menus (which advertise "free delivery") but i guess not, so i can't spell it out correctly... anyways i'm quite sure the dish is called Fasuliah, or maybe Fasuliyah. it had nice tender chunks of lamb stewed with white (maybe navy? not sure) beans in a tomato broth. it came as a stew with bright saffrony rice, with bits of what looked like rice-length thin pasta toasted and cooked with the rice, like vermicelli or fideos, although the rice does have that sort of parboiled, super extra fluffy bouncy grain quality that i always find mystifying.

          the flavors were rich and warm. not spicy-hot, but well spiced and seasoned. perfect for someone like me, who is basically over a cold, but still needs the strength of slow cooked soups or stews ( and can't stand looking at his own pot of home made split-pea soup anymore, no matter how good it was two days ago!)

          i tried doing some searches on palestinian cuisine, but only found offhand comments which referred to fasuliah as "green beans?" these were certaintly not green beans. this place has been sitting there for a few years, and at first i didn't think that much of them, but now i am loving the unique menu items. i'm not even sure if i can recommend their shawermas or kebabs, since i haven't had either in a long time, but these everyday specials and daily specials are worth exploring, for sure.

          2 Replies
          1. re: augustiner

            hmm. this rice makes me think of "the san francisco treat," rice-a-roni, a bit, come to think of it. not to deter people from trying the lamb/bean dish!

            1. re: augustiner

              Hey, it's now "Rice-a-Roni Nature's Way." Next you know it'll be organic, like Ritz Crackers.