Dining Guide 2014: Our Favorite MIDDLE EASTERN & AFRICAN Places to Eat and Drink

MIDDLE EASTERN & AFRICAN

Chef Café

It’s a fact well known to most intrepid diners: The less assuming an ethnic joint looks, the more likely it is to be good. Chef Café delivers on that count, as the odd name and tired decor can’t obscure the fact that it’s the home of Seattle’s best Ethiopian food. Portions are almost overwhelmingly generous, and they have by far the best injera I’ve had in the city. Other highlights include the yebeg wat (lamb), sega tibs (beef), whatever fish they happen to have, and katenga, a toasted and buttered injera appetizer. Service can vary wildly in attentiveness and speed, but the food is always worth it. 2200 S. Jackson St., 568-2681 ZACH GEBALLE

Golden Beetle

From the outside, it’s easy to mistake this Ballard restaurant for just another Thai establishment. But walk inside and enter the lovely Middle Eastern world created by Maria Hines, complete with beautiful light fixtures and large black-and-white photos of her travels in that region—of the people who inspired and taught her. One of my go-to restaurants during the week, I can rarely resist the perfectly cooked herbed falafel (delicate and not greasy, and made with fava beans instead of chickpeas); her chickpea and lemon stew (add lamb if you’re a meat eater), which I almost always end up covertly licking the last drops of; or the almond-stuffed medjool dates with a Meyer-lemon gastrique, grilled romaine, and urfa. Of course, because it’s Maria Hines, almost all dishes are organic and sustainable, and come with a vegetarian option. The wood-fired pizzas are delish too; try the duck sausage with peanut berbere, Gruyère, and pickled serrano. 1744 N.W. Market St., 706-2977, golden-beetle.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

Mamnoon

Mamnoon is that rare breed of Middle Eastern restaurant that manages to be supremely stylish while also serving impeccable food. And while the large, open space doesn’t feel cold, it definitely encourages you to bust out your finer fashion. The menu is categorized by small plates, salads, the oven, and the grill—and you’ll want to sample a bit from each. Try not to overindulge in the bread plate, with exquisite versions of regional types, including a Syrian flatbread. There are almost always specials, and they’re almost always fantastic, so be sure to heed your waiter’s advice on those. Otherwise, the fried cauliflower with tarator and parsley and the muhammara (a dip made of walnuts, pepper paste, pomegranate, and cumin) make perfect starters. I tend to get two and skip the salad. As for the oven, it’s worth it to splurge for the $38 Chilean sea bass with pepper paste, pine nuts, cabbage, mint, and cilantro; it’s a large portion and cooked to perfection (easily shared by two). You can’t go wrong with anything from the grill, but if you ordered the sea bass, I suggest the reasonably priced kefta (minced lamb, onion, pistachio, baharat). End your meal with Turkish coffee–flavored ice cream or the creamy labneh cheesecake with walnut toffee and ksara pluot. 1508 Melrose Ave., 906-9606, mamnoonrestaurant.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

 
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