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Saha -- Best Middle Eastern in SF?

I'm looking for the best Middle Eastern restaurant in SF that falls into the "nice restaurant" category.

I've scoped the recent threads on this board devoted to Middle Eastern food, including country-specific cuisines. Among the recommendations are Aicha, Arabian Nights, Cafe Zitouna, El Mansour, Fattoush, Old Jerusalem and Palmyra.

Based on what I can tell from the restaurants' websites and the photos on Yelp, all these places (except maybe Fattoush) seem to fall in the "cheap eats" category or slightly above it. Lots of tackiness going on. None of them seems the type of place you'd want to take your mom, a date, or an out-of-town guest.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a "nice restaurant" in SF that serves any type of Middle Eastern food? I'd put Saha in this category, and while it's great, I'm looking to branch out or find something better. (Aziza comes to mind, but it's hard to call it a Moroccan restaurant anymore.)

Thanks in advance for any recommendations or insights.

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  1. If I may be allowed to quibble, Morocco is not in the Middle East, nor is traditional Moroccan food particularly similar to Middle Eastern food.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Fair point. I guess I mean food from the Arab world.

      1. re: indygene

        Yes, Saha calls itself "Pan Arab fusion" and features some Moroccan dishes.

        What about Helmand Palace?

        Or Maykadeh?

      2. re: Ruth Lafler

        Not exactly.

        Morocco is a North African country which can be classified as part of the Greater Middle East, with cultural and historical crossover to what has predominantly been culturally Arab (Maghrebi, etc.), Berber, Moorish, and at times Bedouin, and Jewish influenced populations. The food is about as distinct as it is similar, so it's accurate to link the culinary traditions, and recognize the equivalent dishes. Furthermore, most Moroccan restaurants in the US do fit within generic Middle Eastern or Mediterranean umbrellas because of what they offer on their menus.

        1. re: sugartoof

          Calling Morocco part of the Middle East distorts the term such as to make it meaningless.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            That statement is meaningless to anyone who understands the culinary traditions of the region, including Iraqi, and Persian cuisines.

            1. re: sugartoof

              "Middle East" is a geographical region, not an ethnic or cultural one.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I think most people have an idea of what's being talked about here from a food perspective, so even if these aren't precisely the right terms, it's probably time to let this conversation go and instead focus on suggesting restaurants that will work for the original poster. Thanks.

      3. Arabian Nights has table clothes, and nice presentation.

        I haven't been back since they started offering coupons, and the quality took a hit, but I could fit the bill.

          1. re: soupçon

            Zare is sort of Cal-Persian.

            If Persian's OK, Maykadeh is quite nice.

            1. re: soupçon

              Excellent food, a very welcoming and attractive restaurant, and a wonderful host (Hoss, the owner). It is in a different catagory from Fatoush and Tuba which are more casual neighborhood places. Zare is one of our "special occasion" places to go.

            2. Tuba is nice. Turkish.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/687779

              I didn't like the food at Saha enough to want to go back but it has gotten a lot of positive reports here.

              1. Saha was too 'cramped' for me...

                I usually don't mind tight seating, but I found Saha a bit worse than norm... IMHO.

                I like Zare (at Fly Trap), and Hoss is a really nice chef/host/dude... :)