It's funny what a u-turn can do for you. Back in 2003, we turned into Diane Street to make a "semi u-turn" when we first saw Ba Ren. This past November, I was making a u-turn on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard when I spotted a sign I hadn't seen before.
Man, this was a new one for me! A few days later I dropped by during lunch to investigate. The gentleman, whose name if I could ever get it right is Nabih was very friendly, mellow, and had a great sense of humor as well.
The space was nice and wide open, nothing fancy mind you, but very clean. Loved the wood fired oven and when I saw embers rising from the grill, Nabih told me, "it's the mesquite we use for grilling." Well ok, sign me up!
The lunch was a collection of the usual suspects kafta, shawarma, even a burger. I really liked the Combo Sandwich ($8.50), which gave you one each of a Beef Shawarma, Falafel, and Chicken Shawarma. It was a neat plate which looked like mini tacos.
The beef was decent, mild for my taste, but it had a nice texture. The falafel much too hard and gritty; I prefer a crisp exterior with a more cream interior. The one surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the chicken....something about the combination of flavors; the perfectly flavored pickles and that excellent garlic paste, with the nicely grilled chicken, enrobed in a house made warm pita that did it for me. This was probably the best garlic paste I've had in San Diego. Yes, better than Alforon. It was creamy, with just the mildest bite.
The salad was fresh and crisp.
So, it was a good lunch. And that would have been that; until I had a look at the rest of the menu. Oh my, there was so much more to this place it seemed. And it also had something I really hadn't seen on a menu in years......Kibbeh Nayyeh - Kibbeh Nayee ($11) on the menu. Think of it as a Lebanese beef tartare if you will. It is basically minced raw beef combined with bulgur and seasoned with various spices. The Missus had to work, so I decided to drop by and check this out.
Nabih mentioned in his genial and friendly way that it take about 20 minutes to prepare this as he was the only one who makes the dish and it has to be made fresh and eaten quickly. Hey, I was in no rush. A bottle of Almaza Beer, brewed by Brasserie Almaza; Beirut, Lebanon was suggested. Of course I was going to try that.
Some pita, hummus, and garlic paste (yes!) was also provided. I enjoyed the hummus as well; it's very, and has just the right amount of tahini for my taste. Most places just put either too much, or not enough of the stuff.
The garlic paste was quite good. It arrived looking very light and whipped. You'll notice if you are able to restrain yourself from eating the whole thing that it starts to ever so slightly change in texture as time goes by. I was told that only four ingedients are used in this; oil, garlic, salt, and just a touch of lemon juice. Nabih also shared some other parts of the process, which I think I'll let him tell you if you visit.
The Kibbeh Nayyeh truly delivered, it's refreshing, love the flavors of the spices, cinnamon, and other flavors come through quite well. It's refreshing, yet rich, and the bulgur makes this quite filling. I really had to work to finish it off. Nabih had made it a bit spicy for me which was nice; the crunch and pungency of the onions really did the trick, and the fruity touch of the olive oil brought it all together. The Missus and I actually had this a few weeks later and we could barely finish.
Somehow, I just knew I could trust Nabih with making me a raw beef dish. There's something about his character that justs seems so solid and trustworthy. So the following week I brought the Missus, and over time we've found the rotation of dishes we enjoy. You might be surprised; not a kabob in sight. Personally, we love snacking on the mezza and salads. Here are our favorites.
This wonderfully complex combination of red bell pepper, walnut, pomegranite sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, cayenne....thickened with bread just hits the spot.
The Shaankleesh, made from the well known mold ripened cheese, mixed with tomato, onion, zaatar, and olive oil, makes for the utlimate bread food. It is savory, funky (in a good way), with the wonderful flavor of a mildly ripe cheese.
Two items you'll know if you've had Lebanese food in San Diego, but nicely prepared as mezza.
These little sausages are very moist, the spices combined with the rather bracing lemon juice nad pungent black pepper will keep you interested.
The Soujouk was interesting:
Nabih suggested a different preparation form what was on the menu. Rather than cooked with eggs; he told us we'd enjoy it with a nice tomato sauce.
The nicely spiced dry sausage, did really well with the acid and tanginess of the light tomato sauce. This is the Missus's current favorite dish. I like it with an Almaza beer....it's one of those dishes that was just made for beer.
And of course there's the garlic paste and hummus.
And yes, we've tried other dishes on the menu......
The wings are pretty good.....you'll have to love garlic and lemon juice to enjoy this one.
Here's a dish Nabih said you'll either take to, or immediately hate. The Batata Hama - a bit too much lemon in this one for us.
The quail was tender, but man, that pomengranite saice almost blew me out of my socks!
You'll notice...not kabob in sight...I guess we're enjoying the mezza so much that we haven't made it that far yet. And where's all those other standards? Ditto......I guess straying away from the usual suspects paid off for us. And there's also sfiha on the menu, which is sort of like the Turkish Lahmacun and Manakish....though the Missus isn't doing bread right now.
Nabih is one of the nicest fellows around. He remembers his customers and always has time for a conversation....he also has a sly sense of humor as well. His wife, I believe her name is Lynn is so very nice as well. They seem to treat their regulars like family. We've been dropping by almost every week.
The last quarter of 2014 has been good to us, we've found two places we enjoy having our "date night" at; Yakitori Taisho and La Miche.
While lunch here is good, it's the variety and flavors available at dinner, not to mention the relaxed and friendly staff, that makes this place something special for us
La Miche Kabobgee
9350 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92123
Mon - Fri 11am - 9pm
Saturday 3pm - 9pm
Sunday - Closed