By Jessica Yadegaran
Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 at 5:35 pm in Corkheads.
As a restaurant critic, I so wish we reviewed restaurants in San Francisco. Alas, there are too many to get to in the East Bay. If we did, I would put Jannah in Western Addition/NOPA high on my list.
I’ve eaten there three times in the past week, and I will continue to go back. The Iraqi restaurant is one of those neighborhood finds that you want to share with everyone, visiting relatives and foodie BFFs alike.
Normally, I would want to keep gems like this a secret, but in this continually flailing economy, there’s no way I’m going to let such an exquisite establishment go unnoticed.
I was trying to figure out what I recognized about the restaurant – the consistent, fast service, the stand-apart flavorful dolmas, the fresh and healthy grilled kabobs plates – when I read on their Web site that the chef is Yahya Salih.
Salih used to run the Mesopotamian-inspired Yaya Cuisine on Van Ness Avenue, which was a favorite of mine when I first moved to the Bay Area. I used to day dream about their safeeha (a sort of Iraqi pizza). I’m not sure when it happened, but YaYa closed its doors sometime in the past five years.
Here’s why I think I’m so jazzed about Jannah. I’m Persian, and while I love the food of my mother’s homeland, I’ve long believed that Iraqis take it to the next level. There, I said it. Iraqi food excites me more. Their inclusion of cinnamon and their ability to use cumin and turmeric with such command – it shows up neither passive as it does in Persian food nor aggressive as I sense in Indian cuisine – that I’ve found myself smelling the kuzi (phyllo dough filled with shredded lamb, rice, almonds, golden raisins, and spices) when it’s put before me. Then, I dig in to its splendor.
The best part? Every dish on the dinner menu is $11 or less. There you have it. It’s not impossible to enjoy a wholesome, exotic dinner on a budget with your whole family in San Francisco.