Romans called Yemen Arabia Felix (Fortunate Arabia) because
of its fertile land and rich trade which made it the most
luxuriant and luxurious place on the peninsula.
New Yorkers are fortunate enough to be able to round out a trip to
BAM with a stop in nearby Brooklyn Heights at Yemen Café for the
old Yemeni standard -- really a national dish of sorts -- salta.
(nothing nautical about it at all!) is a steamy green stew of
assorted root vegetables, thickened with okra and seasoned with
fenugreek, served very hot (what they term volcano style)
in a stone pot, along with roast lamb that is served separately
and is deliciously, succulently tender. The accompanying
bread is fresh from the oven, larger than a pizza, and absolutely
perfect. All of this - stew, lamb and bread, along with
drizzlings of lemon juice, make for a satisfying and strange
Café is the sort of place one goes to for the food, not for
atmosphere. The large fish tank is a half-hearted and
perhaps misguided nod at décor, as are the framed prints of
Yemeni scenes. All poetry here is reserved for the food --
one is really here for the odes to lamb in all its variations….
Appetizers of sautéed lamb with onions, tomatoes and spices, or
sautéed cubes of lamb
liver… Haneez, their most popular lamb dish served
with rice and a medley of vegetables, massloug -- lamb
cooked in a mirepoix for hours and served with vegetables and
rice. We are also quite taken with the fassolia with
eggs -- white kidney beans sautéed in a tomato-based sauce with
eggs and served with the same wonderful bread. Perfect for brunch
or any time of the day.
then after one has stuffed oneself giddy, one can cross the street
to Sahadi's, a gourmet store with a Middle Eastern slant
that stocks specialty olive oils, Middle Eastern cheeses,
quantities and varieties of nuts and olives, fig and date
preserves from Mymouné. An Aladdin's cave of treasures…the
best hummus in New York, tabouleh, kibbes, filo wraps, fresh
pita. Harissa if you don't make your own…one can certainly
go home with the riches
and feel quite fortunate....