Zaki Kabab House - Albany
The verdict: I'll be back soon.
The trial: (after a couple of days under the weather, we got our order to go, which stayed hot in the 2 block walk home)
(1) Lamb burger w/fries
(2) Lamb kebab w/rice and salad
(3) Babaganoush with pita
(1) Dining companion ate and loved it.
(2) I liked it. The lamb needed a sauce, which wasn't included - maybe there was something on the table in the restaurant, or I could have asked for something if we were there. The salad was a standard cucumber, etc., and was good. The rice was outstanding. I don't know if you can order a large side of rice, but I could see doing that and bringing it home as a side dish for my own meals.
(3) It needed more seasoning. Fresh and fine, and if I hadn't had any middle eastern food outside of Wasilla for a year, I'd have loved it. Some more garlic, and a bit more other spice, and it would have been very good. The pita needs help.
The place is halal, and I don't think they have or allow any alcohol, which means it may be more lunch than dinner for me. The place was packed by the time the order was ready. The plates of food coming out looked appealing in general. They really cleaned this place up. This is not to "cut down" any prior occupants of this or other establishments, but going into a bright and fresh looking place makes a good first impression. My minor criticisms here are not to dissuade anyone from eating here. Quite the opposite, it is for them to hopefully see them and make a few minor tweaks to what appears to be a nice addition to the 'hood.
I stopped by today but was early and just picked up a menu. They did spruce it up nicely ... even the patio area. Very nice people. The woman there said her dad was Palestinean and her mom Morrocan and the menu was mainly Pallestinean. She was really nice. Will have to get that rotisserie chicken it looks like quite the deal ... 1/2 halal chicken "hand-rubbed with our secret spices and marinated" served with pita, spiced rice and salad.
They are open daily noon - 9pm
Zaki Kabob House
1101 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Thanks for the tip. We stopped there today for lunch, very good.
I had the Mediterranean Plate for $8.75 with baba ghannouj, hummus, dolmas and falafel plus pita and a small plate of roasted veggies. They made everything there except the pita and dolmas and all was tasty.
My friend had the marinated chicken breast plate with spiced rice for $6.50.
Both plates were yummy, Mediterranean comfort food. At 1 PM, the place was hopping with about 10 customers. The whole family seemed to be there – mom, dad, kids – waiting tables, serving mint tea, checking on customers. Definitely a friendly vibe. And I appreciated the cleanliness of tables, floors, etc.
Go there, support it. You Bay Area folks are so fortunate to have a choice like this. I'm still pining for good Middle Eastern food in Sonoma County.
Oh, condiments on table did include a hot sauce and some sort of pickle, sorry I didn't investigate for you.
You should check it out for dinner ... or at least get a take out of the terrific rotisserie chicken. It isn't ready until after 5pm
This is a plump, juicy, flavorful halal bird, the spice rub complementing the overall deliciousness and not overwhelming it. It is not a crispy skin chicken which is a good thing as sometimes those are way too dry. When I opened it at home, there were pan juices that had collected at the bottom ... so good. At $10.50 for a whole bird with sides, this is quite the deal. There were two large take out containers of food.
I have to agree with that rice being excellent. I don't care much for rice, but the saffron yellow rice was light, rich and spiced lightly it seems with maybe cinnamon ... cardamom? Sprinkled on the top were crunchy, toasted slivered almonds. It will go on my list as top 10 tastes of 2008.
There was also the chopped cucumber/tomato mix, pita and a complementary crispy flatbread that had olive oil and zatar.
The family who owns it is so warm and inviting. Wonderful people. I needed to wait a while for the chicken to be done. They gave me a newspaper, some complementary mint tea and offered some lovely, large dates.
When there was a mix up about the time the chicken would be ready, I ordered a Mediterranean coffee flavored with cardamom. This is worth ordering just for the pretty presentation from a gold-colored metal tray with the delicate china cup balanced on it.
The owner is very personable and rightly proud of his chickens and charmingly said the recipe was maybe 1000 years old passed on from his father who got it from his grandfather, etc. Speaking of family, his brother owns Fred's Market.
I'd say at night the restaurant might even fall into the category of romantic ... a nice place to take a date that isn't over the top. The lights are lower, nice Middle Eastern music plays softly in the background. They light torches outside and inside there are a few flickering hurricane lamps. Some white lights are strung across the ceiling.
They said on Thanksgiving, they had four turkeys on the rotisserie feeding customers and the neighborhood homeless also. Nice people.
I'm glad I needed to wait for the chicken. It was a relaxing little oasis and I enjoyed spending some time there.
My family and I have now gone twice for lunch. The teenager repeatedly ordered the chicken breast on a bun with fries and a soda - 6.95. Steak fries cooked just perfectly leaving them lightly crisp and moist. I personally would ask to leave out mustard, mayo and pickles on the hamburger bun for just plain lettuce. The Mediteranean plate and chicken schwarma were yummy. I was impressed that pita bread refill was offered at no extra cost. A warm fava bean salad was satisfying though very plain - good side dish for the hummus and baba gahnoush. The generous chicken breast plate with the wonderful saffron rice at 6.95 is the best value. My vegan son declared the Turkish pistashio baklava ($4 slice) was superior at Turkish Kitchen, but the rest of us enjoyed the cheaper walnut baklava for $1. small square I can't wait to try the rotisserie chicken! The family is warm and sincere. We will definitely return.
Got the rotisserie chicken to go last night. The spiced skin is absolutely delicious and the meat moist -- even the breast. We enjoyed the sides, too, though of course the tomatoes are out of season and a bit watery. The rice had a dollop of white sauce on it as well as the almonds. Yogurt? Very tasty, in any case. This was enough for two of us for dinner. A great deal.
Thank you for announcing they were open today. We had one of those not-so-minor kitchen disasters: the lamb chops had not survived their stay in the fridge (It's not the red meat that'll kill ya; it's the green stuff you need to watch out for!) so we had to come up with an alternative quickly.
So we went down to Zaki. Split a bowl of the lentil soup (current special), which was *excellent*. So thick it almost qualified as lentil paste rather than soup, with a strong lemon note. I had the half chicken, which was delicious -- the dipping sauce arrived late, and wasn't missed (a tasty enough mixture of olive oil, garlic, and cilantro, but the chicken really didn't need any help) -- and my wife was quite happy with her lamb plate. As she said, "Mr. Frisky didn't die in vain, unlike the one from the supermarket."