I visited the campus on a recent Wednesday night. Irene Messina and I headed toward the UA after work with three goals in mind: one, find parking; two, review Sinbad's; three, go and see Mamma Mia! at Centennial Hall. We almost bombed out immediately on our first goal. After circling the area near Euclid and University avenues for a while, Irene--showing a much higher level of common sense--gave up and decided to park in the garage just up Euclid a bit. I parked about four blocks away down University and decided to take a hike.
Anyway, when we finally got to Sinbad's--nestled in a courtyard area featuring a salon and several other restaurants--we were hungry. Only one other table was occupied at this early bird hour, so we had our pick of the tables in this Middle Eastern restaurant with Spanish-style architecture.
We sat down and immediately ordered the combination plate appetizer ($6.25). We had our pick of four of the six appetizers; we chose--as the restaurant's menu spelled them--the hommos (garbanzo bean dip with garlic, lemon, tahini and olive oil), the babagannouge (eggplant dip with the above ingredients ), the dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves) and the falafel (garbanzo bean patties, fried and seasoned). I also decided to sample a cup of the lentil soup ($2.75).
This is the cool thing about Middle Eastern food: It takes things that I would normally not eat in their usual formats (i.e. garbanzo beans) and turns them into something delicious. This is an art--an art Sinbad's has down pat.
Both the hommos and the babagannouge were fantastic. The big thing with these dishes to me is for them to have an even, almost creamy consistency, and both passed this test with flying colors. The pita bread ran out fast as Irene and I lapped up the dips. The falafel also had a nice consistency and was delicious to boot. Often, it's fried to the point of being dry; Sinbad's falafel was perfectly moist. The dolmathes were good, too--tasty, if a bit greasy-feeling.
The lentil soup was also good. It was very simple--no frills, but with a fantastic, creamy consistency. One thing you can say about Sinbad's: Its consistency is consistent.
After such yummy appetizers, Irene and I looked forward to our entrées. I ordered the aladin (marinated chicken with zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions--bell peppers are standard but I asked them to be held--served over a bed of rice, $8.75), while Irene got the khodra (zucchini, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and green peppers served over a bed of rice, $7.25).
We chatted about work, spirituality and other topics as we looked out the window into the sunny courtyard. People ate, talked and studied, all seemingly having a good time. There was a nice feel.
When the main courses arrived, we were not disappointed. They looked almost identical--mine had chicken while Irene's had more veggies, obviously--and each came with a side of more hommos.
Irene enjoyed the sautéed vegetables--which were flavorful, fresh and well-prepared--and was full before she was even half done. I, however, finished off my dish. It was a delight. My only complaint was that the chicken, which had a lemon/black pepper taste, was a bit drier than I would have preferred. But that's a minor complaint; I'd order the aladin again in a heartbeat.
We couldn't head off to Centennial Hall without dessert, so Irene got a piece of baklava ($2.25) while I tried a piece of their basbusa ($2.50). My basbusa--a coconut flour cake with rose flavor--was a bit dry (which is to be expected) but sweet and flavorful. However, after a bite of Irene's baklava, I was wishing I'd gotten a piece of it instead. It was wonderfully flaky, with delicious sweet pecans. It may have been the best baklava I've ever had, and I am a big fan of baklava.
Thoroughly satisfied with the meal, the polite yet casual service and the sunny atmosphere, we paid our bill and headed for Mamma Mia! Since the play was a blast, too, it made for a delightful evening.
So delightful, in fact, we didn't even mind the hike back to our respective vehicles afterward.