One of the wonderful benefits of having a food blog, is that I've had the opportunity to meet (or is meat?) so many fantastic people. Folks who find the same amount of joy in sharing and eating food as I do. Not only does it make me feel less strange about my obsessions, but I've found some great places to eat as well. Over the past year or so, three of my favorite FOYs (Friends of Yoso) and I have been getting together about once a month or so to share a meal, conversation, and some very healthy, and hearty laughs!
This time around, it was Jenne's turn to choose the place, and I was excited. You see, Jenne is quite familiar with the downtown El Cajon area, home of many Chaldean/Iraqi restaurants. I'd already been to Village Grill and Ali Baba, and I was looking forward to checking out La Pita, one Jenne's favorites. Unfortunately, it seems that La Pita has just closed down, so Jenne came out with Hammurabi as a plan B. The restaurant itself is quite interesting, I'm certain that it used to be a diner in a previous life, so think of diner juxtaposed with a kabob house.
After deciding on what to order, I started with some yogurt. Why yogurt........ well, after having visited a few of these places, and seeing what huge meat-fests they are, I needed to get the tummy squared away.
Every one of these Kabob Houses has "feasts" designed for two, three, four, or five people. Actually, it should be more like three, five, six, or the entire neighborhood. What you're about to see is the "feast for two"($35).
Which starts out with a rather innocuous plate of nice fresh greens tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.
And of course there was the bread:
Known as Khubz, this pizza sized flat bread is a wonderful vehicle of flavor. There were two pieces of warm bread overflowing a basket that was surely not up to the job. Better than what we had at Village Grill, but not as good as Ali Baba's.
Next up was our plate of meat, starches, and pickles.... remember all of this, the salad, hummus, bread, and the platter below is for two!
The pickles, the "Turshi" ranged from pretty good the pickled saffron-curry cabbage, to "meh", I thought the pickled turnips were too bitter.
Here's a rundown on the rest of the plate: Two Lamb Kabobs (nice and moist, but low on the gamey scale), Two Chicken Kabob (pretty good, well seasoned), One Chicken Tekka (also pretty good), Shawarma (fairly moist, but mild in flavor), Chicken Chop (which I enjoyed), Rice (meh), and Bulghur (well flavored, mildly spicy and tangy). Sheesh. I finally had the "cream chop", in this case breaded and fried chicken. It was pretty moist, and very tender.
Since Jenne had picked the place, I let her take some photos, like this one.
I'd wanted some Baba Ghanouj, but they were all out. We went with a small Tabbouli($5) instead.
There was one menu item that grabbed my attention:
It simply said "Birds". When I asked the very friendly young lady serving us about this, she said simply: "it's small whole birds........." Small birds? I had visions of the fantastic whole roasted sparrows we had at Highway 4 in Hanoi dancing in my head. So when our "Birds" arrived, I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed.
The "Birds" were simply quail! This was a simple preparation, salt rubbed, some lemon, and roasted. The wings and legs were salty, smokey, and crunchy....great nibbling. The carcass was pretty dank and gamey. Howie and Jenne enjoyed them though. Jenne said it tasted like the wild quail her dad used to hunt.
By the time Candice's dish, the Tashreeb, a braised lamb shank served in a huge bowl lined with Khubz soaking up the wonderful braising vegetables and liquid arrived we were all stuffed. I was too full to take photos! I did have some lamb which was soft and tender, but it's the saturated bread, which I wrapped in another piece of bread that tasted really great.
Needless to say, there was a good amount of leftovers. It was another meal made better by the company. I can't wait to do this again soon! As you can tell, the portions are generous, and make sure to check your gout at the door.
During our meal I kept peeking at the back room, which in contrast to the rather worn dining room, was being nicely decked out. The young lady told us that there was an engagement party later that evening..... As we were leaving I saw men dressed nattily in suits arriving. It gave the evening another interesting twist.
Hammurabi Family Restaurant
401 W Main St
El Cajon, CA 92021
"All that meat and nothing for me!!!"