‘Yum’ is how we’d describe it
According to a new book by former White House Chef Walter Scheib III, that was the reaction of Laura Bush’s social secretary when she viewed a proposed menu that included hummus.
Apparently, bringing democracy to the Middle East is one thing; serving staples of the Middle Eastern kitchen to the first lady is quite another.
I have no idea if the current occupants of the executive mansion don’t like the chickpea and tahini dip, or if Scheib’s version of it isn’t up to their standards. But I do know you can get excellent hummus at the Shish Kebab House of Tucson.
Hummus, in fact, is why I returned to this modest East Side eatery only days after my visit. I didn’t order anything with hummus during that first foray and a friend who loves the place was incredulous.
“Next time, you gotta get the hummus,” he told me. “Best hummus in town.”
I won’t go that far. But I’d be willing to guess that sharing this restaurant’s appetizer of creamy smooth hummus and sautéed tenderloin ($7.95) might even help warring Sunnis and Shiites make nice.
The hummus, though, is but one of many top-notch takes on Middle Eastern dishes that you can find on the extensive Shish Kebab House menu.
Another is the Magloubeh ($9.95), a traditional Jordanian dish of tender beef or chicken (lamb is $3 extra) crowning a steaming mound of rice, crispy fried cauliflower and potatoes. And befitting its name, the restaurant’s beef and chicken shish kebab ($14.95) is first rate.
Our meal began with one hot and one cold appetizer. Foul ($4.95) was the hot: fava beans with lemon and lots of garlic. Kousa Belaban ($4.25) was the cold: baked squash mixed with yogurt and garlic. Like the hummus, both seem to encourage the consumption of way too much warm pita bread.
To close we opted for the exotic sounding Emhalabia ($2.75), a rose water flavored milk custard topped with honey and pistachios.
Service at the Shish Kebab House can be spotty, with occasional long waits between courses. But the dining room is pleasant and the food – let’s just say you probably won’t be quoting Laura Bush’s social secretary.
AT A GLANCE
Shish Kebab House of Tucson 5855 E. Broadway, 745-5308
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Price: Appetizers, soups and salads $3.25-$14.95; most entrees $7.95-$18.95; dishes for two $25.95-$41.95
Bar: Beer, wine and some mixed drinks
Meat options: Kibbeh Nayiah (raw minced lamb, $14.95), beef or chicken shish kebab with couscous ($11.95) and the “Mountain Man” (chicken with tomato sauce and rice, $10.95)
Seafood options: Shrimp or fish kabsas, a Bedouin dish with rice, onions, tomatoes, peppers and herbs, served with yogurt ($13.95 for shrimp, $15.95 for fish)
Vegetarian options: Falafel with rice, salad or hummus ($8.95), okra with rice ($9.95) and vegetarian kebab with couscous ($11.95)
Dessert options: Ice cream and baklava (each $2.75)
Currency: Cash and credit
Last health inspection: A “good” rating Oct. 16, when two violations were found. Foods were not correctly date marked and noncritical items were not in compliance. In eight previous inspections, the restaurant received five “good” and three “excellent” ratings.