Cross: Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO
I try to make my life a study of hi-lo as much as possible. Nothing
quite like doing a posh champagne tasting at the Ritz, followed
up by a drink down the street at the Tunnel Top and then an emergency
quesadilla. Or oysters at Zuni Café with the 'mos and then
beers on the Zeitgeist patio with the dogs on a rare sunny Sunday.
Hi-lo, baby. A few weeks back I had dinner at Cortez one night and
La Folie on another, with a humble but delicious dinner at ~TAJINE~
sandwiched right in the middle. Tajine is actually right around
the corner from Cortez, on Jones Street, but it's seriously another
world. Man, Jones Street is like zombie headquarters. (Just so you
know what you're getting into here.)
Moroccan place is truly the picture of a hole-in-the-wall, and probably
seats eleven people max. There's a little niche to the right
that feels a touch cozier with some pillows, or there's a
row of two-tops that flank the open kitchen. Chef Mohamed Ghaleb
will probably grin at you when you walk in, silently congratulating
you for making it past the nondescript and dingy exterior, and his
pal might be helping out as host. The friendly Mohamed was previously
behind the wheel of a cab and driving for a car service company,
but is now fulfilling his dream, which is cooking up some killer
couscous and kebabs. Lucky us.
up, warm yourself up with the harira soup ($3.50), a flavorful lentil
soup chock-full of spices. Hearty. Homey. Especially delish with
the fresh sesame-studded bread (khobz) that arrives at the table
(complimentary, because that's how they are).
fully attacked the classic chicken bastilla ($6.75), layers of flaky
phyllo dough stuffed with chicken, almonds, and egg, and then dusted
with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Ours arrived with a whimsical
tic-tac-toe design on top. Everyone wins, because it's scrumptious.
(There's also a vegetarian version offered.)
are specials offered each night—we dug into a flavorful stew-like
dish of white beans with chunks of Merguez sausage. Another dish
we tried was the lamb couscous ($8.50), a savory blend of winter
vegetables and fall-off-the-bone lamb on a bed of fluffy couscous.
It's not spicy, but chock full of flavor. Actually, all the
food is. Oh, and all the meats are Halal (which means permissible
under Islamic law).
of what's permissible, there is no booze offered, but you
can BYOB (no corkage). We brought some wine, or there's the
liquor store next door. Tajine is also open for lunch, with an array
of sandwiches like lamb, chicken, or kufta kebab, and of course,
more of that Merguez sausage. All sandwiches come with fries and
shalada (tomatoes, onion, and garlic sautéed in olive oil)
for $6.95. Score.
dessert, we ordered a pot of hot and sweet mint tea with our shpakia
($2.75), a sticky and sweet pastry soaked in honey with almond and
sesame seeds. My favorite touch: our hands were sprinkled with rosewater
before returning to the gritty outside.
the ambiance. What can I say, it's real. No frills, baby.
The TV had a variety show on, so there was our music. Neighborhood
couples happily dig into the tajines (there are two), pals of Mohamed
swing by to say hi, and by the end of dinner, you'll be a
pal too. It's a swell destination if you're in a "I
don't feel like cooking/I'm feeling exploratory/I don't
want to spend a lot of cash" mood. Dinner came to $32, with
enough leftovers for lunch for two the next day. Since Tajine is
cash only, we easily paid up our bill with two yuppie food stamps,
done. Next, a Merguez sausage sandwich for lunch. I'll report
I just found out Mohamed is closing Tajine for one week, doing a
small remodel of the seating and the counter, and should be open
again on Monday, April 3.