What The Hell Are You Eating?

Sultan Palace August 16, 2008

Filed under: Middle Eastern — whatthehellareyoueating @ 10:17 pm
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Erin and I checked out an Afghani place, Sultan Palace, located in Main Gate Square the other night at the behest of Jimmy Boegle’s review in the Tucson Weekly. To quote J-Boeg, “Trust me, folks: Sultan Palace offers some of the best food in Tucson.” While his review isn’t entirely inaccurate, I have to slightly disagree.

We were dubious as soon as we approached the restaurant, it is tucked away off of University, next to Which ‘Which which I’ve never tried either even though Jason Terry has always been one of the few Wildcat basketball players I was ever able to stand (Go to hell Mike Bibby). There was no one in the vicinity and as we got closer I started to have second thoughts. I actually expressed it verbally to Erin saying, “We can still turn around, it’s not to late if it looks wrong.” But then one of the employees walked out of the door and saw us standing there and he guilted me into going in. Needless to say, we were the only people in the restaurant which gave our waiter a chance to be a little overbearing and creepy (He looked like an older fucked up Jonas Brother who no one ever talks about), but who can blame him we were probably his only customers his whole shift. I counted no less than six parties walk up to the door, look at the menu only to turn around and go somewhere else.

Anyway, the food. I had wanted to start with a lentil soup but our waiter told me they were out of all soups. How could they be “out” of soup? Maybe they were busier early in the day but I think it might have been more accurate to say, “we didn’t bother making soup today.” Not that I would’ve been any less displeased. I ordered the mantu and an order of meat sambossa’s. Erin had chicken with flavored rice which I’m pretty sure meant that it had carrots and raisins instead of just rice. She also added a side of qorme kofta. We each got a small salad with greens, mint and cucumber topped with a really nice yogurt dressing. It was delicious. Erin declared the dressing something she would “drink” were it socially acceptable. Luckily for her the sambossas came with a small dish of the same dressing as a dipping sauce. The sambossas were wonderful. Think samosa with a spicy ground beef and vegetable mixture inside only flakier. With such a thin, layered dough, I could see the sambossas coming out sort of spongy and soft, but these were crisp throughout and had wonderful texture.

My mantu were quite good, though they were completely slathered in sour cream. A mantu is a sort of meat dumpling that is steamed and topped with more of the filling and the aforementioned sour cream. They were pretty tasty, the filling was rich and well spiced but the dish offered little depth as it was basically a pile of mantus. Erin’s chicken and rice was a pretty thorough disappointment. The rice was pretty good, Erin’s a big fan of carrots which was fortunate since the plate was crawling with them. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such an orange dish. The chicken, however was the real mystery. I wish I had brought my camera so I could have Luke identify what part of the chicken this thing came from. My best guess was that it was a drumstick, we debated the possibility of it actually being lamb but it really didn’t taste like lamb either.  What it did taste like was nasty meat strapped to a suspect bone.  Imagine a Thanksgiving where you manage to wrestle one of the turkey legs from you grandma and then you take it out back to the porch to devour only to become distracted and not return to find it until mid April.   If I’m right though, that was the biggest god damn chicken of all time. Well, maybe not.

Erin really did enjoy her qorme kofta.  They come two to an order and really were pretty good.  Though not as dense as your everyday Italian meatball, the qorme kofta seemed to be its familiar Middle Eastern counterpart, smothered in a tasty, oily tomato sauce.

I would agree with the Boegle that Sultan Palace deserves a few more customers, I’d go back to try a kabob, but I’d hardly call it it some of Tucson’s best.  There’s no way a place like Cafe Poca Cosa would serve a chicken leg the fished out of their septic tank.  Holy Taliban that thing was nasty.

I’m going to have to give Sultan Palace a 5.75 odd dumplings full of meat.  If I were to go back and try a kabob, I wouldn’t be opposed to raising or lowering my score.

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El Saage by Ben May 12, 2008

Filed under: Middle Eastern — whatthehellareyoueating @ 7:36 pm
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Today Marshall asked Amy and I to accompany him to El Saage on Campbell for lunch. He told us it was Lebanese food which did not prompt any familiar images for me. Amy however, must have thought of something akin to the kind of Indian food that gives me gas. She told Marshall that if this was the case, I may get a “tummy-ache” I clarified that my usual reaction to gloopy Indian food is not stomach ache gas but fart gas. Marshall looked uncomfortable, but told me Lebanese food consisted mostly of pita sandwiches, so I was in.
The atmosphere in the restaurant was relaxed and friendly. I can’t remember if there was music playing, but I assume there was. In front of the register, I skimmed over a laminated newspaper article about the family that owns El Saage and their involvement as extras in “Three Kings” and “The Kingdom”. Neat. After finally learning what falafel was from Amy and Marshall, I ordered a falafel sandwich. Amy had said she wanted a feta sandwich but changed her mind at the last minute and got another falafel. I was a little disappointed because I was kind of looking forward to trying some of Amy’s, but no biggie. The girl who rang us up looked a little like a Kim Kardashian, just younger and thinner. She also made what seemed like almost too much eye contact.  I don’t know what Marshall ordered because I was getting water at the time (Kafta-ed). Sorry.
The food all came out pretty quickly. The sandwiches were ready just a little before Marshalls food, but the awkward “do I or do I not start eating before his food gets here” moment was kept at a minimum. Either Marshall’s order came with hummus and pita or he ordered it on the side, but it was pretty good and ornately garnished with oil and olives. It’s worth mentioning that when the young woman from the register brought Amy and I’s food she repeated the eye contact business, but just with me. And then again when she brought Marshall’s food. Kind of weird.
Basically falafel sandwiches are the shit and I love them now. All the extra fillings were appropriate and nothing was gloopy. I think the whole thing might have been baked (They’re fried, I’m surprised they didn’t give you “fart gas.” – ed) because it was crunchy and warm on the outside.
I’m glad Marshall told us about El Saage so we can go there next time we’re out around lunch time and don’t know where to eat. Which actually happens a lot.
 

El Saage May 4, 2008

Filed under: Middle Eastern — whatthehellareyoueating @ 5:49 pm
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I went to El Saage on a Saturday afternoon with Abby before seeing The Other Boleyn Girl (Don’t waste your time, because then you’ll probably waste my time telling my about how you also hated it and if you actually liked it then you’re really wasting my time.)  The place was almost empty though a take out customer showed up as we finished.  Abby said it is usually pretty busy during the week when it must cater to the multiple office buildings in the area. 

El Saage has simple aquatic blue walls with framed pictures of Lebanon and taped up reviews.  The menu was simple and had all the classics, chicken and beef shawarma, falafal, and baba ghanoush.   I had a chicken shawarma sandwich and Abby had teh falafal.  The chicken in my sandwich was savory and retained most of the rich marinade flavor.  Often at other lower scale Middle Eastern restuarants, the meat will be died out and merely coated with said marinade.  The sandwich also included lettuce, tomato, radishes, and a pickle.  The pickle and the radishes were a nice touch, something I’d not encountered in a pita sandwich, they added a crunch and slight bite to the thin pita.  After finishing my sandwich I wanted to try a kabob as well but I was pretty full and we needed to go see that shitty movie.  Abby’s falafal was equally delicious and the generous portion of falafal was not over fried as is often the case.

We also ordered a homus (their spelling, I usually like to go hummus but, hey they’re Lebanese, they know what they’re doing) but our cashier failed to ring us up for it.  After we asked after it, she told us she didn’t add it into the bill but brought some out anyway.  I’m not sure if they are usually that nice or if it was just totally dead.  My guess is that they actually are that nice.  The homus was full and flavorfull without being too thick.  It was spiked with olives and a few radish slivers.  The olive is no friend of mine, probably in my bottom five of all vegetables (Say hi to greenbeans for me, olives.  Jerks), but the radish slivers in the homus were fantastic.  Just that little bite of crunch opened up a new homus world for me.

How could you not buy a kabob from this guy?

From its simple, no frills, menu and decor to its delicious homus and chicken shawarma El Saage has a great thing going.  I give it 8.5 items on  a single kabob.

In a new feature I will also tell you whether our not our vegetarian/vegan friends would find enough on the menu to even try the place.  In this case:  Yes, definitely. 

Here’s what they’re saying on the ‘net:

“The chicken shawarma plate ($8.95), on the other hand, worked well for us.” – Caliente

“Perhaps it’s a question of who’s grilling the eggplant before mashing it …” – Tucson Weekly