Gilded Serpent presents... Noshing around the Bay
On Neran's first visit back to Bay Area a year
after relocating to Knoxville, Tennesee she announced to Nisima,
"There are no (and I mean no) Middle Eastern restaurants
in Knoxville; let's go to as many as we can while I'm here!"
and that was the birth of "Neran & Nisima Noshing......"
Sun Valley Deli
We started our Middle Eastern Bay Area restaurant tour at Sun
Valley Deli, a small, clean, moderately
priced place in Pacifica. The food rates four stars with
home made falafal, soups, plus coffee drinks, and Dreyer's ice
cream. It is moderately noisy being right off the street. [Nisima’s
note: Since we wrote this article, unfortunately, this charming
deli has closed]
is no entertainment/music, but the son of the owner more than
compensates with his sunny smile, cordial manner
and offer to open our drinks as we had just had
our nails done. (That was definitely a plus!)
Our next stop was dinner at Tarboosh
in Redwood City. The décor rates 2-1/2 stars with beautiful
pottery in wall niches. However, the lights are way too
bright, although they were dimmed when the singer came on around
were congenial and ranged in age from their 20s to 60s, predominantly
Middle Eastern, and warmly welcomed non-Middle Eastern women.
The food rates three stars. We had the $35
price fixed dinner show which has no actual menu; courses are
all served family style. There were several dishes of appetizers;
the best being the fried filo dough with cheese but we thought
the hummus was a bit bitter. The main entrée was a large
platter of lamb, chicken and sausage kebob and roasted vegetables,
delicious. The dessert, a pink-colored Middle Eastern
cheese cake with coconut and pistachios on top, is definitely
an acquired taste. Nisima swears her dessert was trying
to escape from the dish! Tarboosh rates one star on the noise
level due to an entire large wall of glass windows to the outside
which reverberate the sound inside. When the music is on,
it become almost impossible to speak or hear above it. We
suggest at the very least covering these windows with drapes or
tapestries to alleviate the “reverb” effect. It is not a
large restaurant, and singer and band can be heard without amps
at full blast. We rate Tarboosh two and one-half stars for
singer had a great voice; he took requests and sang along with
It was a fun place with everyone getting up to
dance for hours, despite crowded and noisy conditions. Tarboosh
rates three stars for service. As in a European restaurant,
one was not rushed through a course. One was given time
to eat each generous course leisurely before being given another.
Our wait staff, although very busy, was smiling, courteous, and
attentive. We were asked if our table could be moved about
a foot to accommodate another table and were thanked profusely
for our cooperation; whole process took less than a minute.
Rakkasah Food Court
Our next stop was the Rakkasah
Festival Food Court.
It certainly rates low for décor, but it is not a "restaurant"
in the true sense of the word, and Nisima and Neran liked being
able to “ogle” the sparkly stuff at the vendors right next to
the food court while eating!
food however, rates only one star: the hummus was watery
and the chicken too spicy.
It rates one star for noise, but it’s in the middle
of a large MED festival. Because of that fact, we give it
two stars for entertainment, as the festival music could be heard.
We rate it one star for service, which was annoyingly slow, we
wonder why there had to be one slow line for beverages and another
even s-l-o-w-e-r line for food.
Another day, another dinner, and this time
we chose Aziza in San Francisco.
The décor was not particularly inviting, way too dim to even see
the food much less read the menus, even though there were lots
of candles in pretty holders. Neran did not like the fact
that she could not see the "color" of her food, feeling
this is part of the presentation. However, it rates three
stars for excellent food – all the appetizers and main dishes
were delicious and presented elegantly; we recommend highly the
house specialty, couscous with prawns. The menu offers a
selection of “tasting menus” or ala carte and was a tad more expensive
but well worth it.
We rated the noise as one star, as the high ceilings
and no tapestries on walls allowed conversations to “float” over
from adjoining tables so much that the Middle Eastern music from
the bar area was only audible as a droning hum.
also rate it one star for entertainment. Aziza no longer
has a belly dancer, which was a disappointment,
particularly to Neran, who was in town from Knoxville,
Tennessee. But, we give it three stars for excellent
service from the wait staff. Aziza has wonderful little
red "stained glass" hearts left on the table when you
pay your bill to alert the wait staff that there is food boxed
up for you. Nisima went crazy over the little hearts, and
it was a struggle to get her to leave them after she found out
they were not for sale…
And yet another evening, and back into San Francisco for dinner
at El Mansoor. This restaurant
looks like a Morrocan jewel box! Lush oriental carpets, decorated
walls and fabulous colorful beaded chandeliers, which the head
waiter informed Nisima were NOT for sale. A very warm and inviting
atmosphere, and we rate it four stars. Dinner rated two
and one-half stars from us.
highly recommend the game hens with lemon, but the Bastila
was a bit less flaky than we have usually encountered.
We rate it three stars for noise level; the music
was nicely muted during dinner. The music was a bit too
loud for the dancer’s performance. As to entertainment,
the dancer Stasha performed to taped music.
She is a vivacious and experienced dancer with a warm and
gracious stage presence and gets the audience up and happily dancing
throughout both her shows. Her cabaret style costuming is
tastefully glamorous with just a hint of folkloric to make it
distinctly her own. Service earned three stars. Our
waiters were friendly and never missed pouring tea into small
glasses from two feet above! Neran was very impressed with
this skill, which Nisima refused to allow her to practice back
at the house the next morning!
Our next dinner was at Al Masri.
The décor is in Egyptian lapis blue, gold and turquoise colors
with hieroglyphics above the bar and numerous colorful maps and
framed artwork throughout dining area. However, the large
decorative gold “throne-chair” in the middle of the room
takes up too much space.
is no seating at bar as bar stools were removed, which does
not convey a welcoming “ambience”, so overall we rated the décor
as two stars.
jarring element was the host Hatem's habit of
monopolizing conversation at our table with off-color and unsolicited
stories! As to the food, it was excellent and we give it three
stars. The presentation was delightful, especially well
done was the rack of lamb. Our rice came in the shape of
a pyramid. (Throughout the meal, Nisima's rice kept looking like
a new Pyramid, and Neran's looked like a ransacked pyramid.
Nisima kept saying she was rebuilding! Whatever that meant.
Neran just kept eating her rice!) The Chef is
a charming Egyptian woman, whom we had opportunity to meet after
dinner and compliment her on her cooking and presentation.
The noise level was low, even though it is a very high ceiling
dining room, possibly because there were only four other diners
in the restaurant besides us -- on a Friday night! Service
was excellent, but we were the only diners after
she was technically competent, but lacked the stage presence
and polish of an experienced professional; her bright smile
signals lots of potential!
Our last meal (not forever, only on this trip), was the New
Luxor. This place definitely rates three stars
for décor. It is gorgeous and lavishly Egyptian in style
with gold statuary in the “nightclub” area, which holds 250 diners.
A great place to party the night away to 2:00 a.m. dancing on
the large dance floor to the live band with singer, synthesizer,
and two, count them TWO drummers!
place is classy and beckons: come and enjoy!
We even ran into a couple of Middle Eastern people
we knew from our Tarboosh experience the week before!
We had the price fixed menu for the dinner show for $35.
There is also a $30 price fix dinner show choice available; both
are served family style with no menu. For those who just
want to dine without the show, there is a dining area separate
from the nightclub room which offers standard menu ordering. The
food was good and rates two stars. Since this time,
Nisima returned to Luxor to find a new program in the nightclub
offering 3 price fixed choices on a printed menu. Each table chooses
the $25, $35 or $45 level and the food is served family style.
We appreciated not only the good food but having choices.
at the Luxor on another night.
The club is moderately noisy with the band playing.
We were there on a night that was not very busy, and some patrons
asked if the music could be turned down a little,
and the band was courteous and accommodating, and we give it two
stars on the noise level. We rate it three stars for entertainment.
Saturdays are the only night the restaurant offers Middle Eastern
music and dancers. For some reason, the dancer was not there,
but the band and singer were terrific!
we mention TWO drummers? Singer and musicians performed
for three hours without a break.
They took requests and obviously enjoyed performing.
All the patrons got up to dance, and we were asked to join in.
We were the only non-Middle Eastern people there and no one seemed
to care. (Note:Nisima kept Neran dancing until closing at
2:00 a.m.!) Our service was excellent. At the bar
before dinner, the bartender struck up a conversation. (We
were two non-Middle Eastern women, wearing coin scarves).
The singer talked with us, not realizing that Nisima had danced
professionally for ten years in various and sundry clubs and restaurants
in the Bay Area “back in the day”. Service in the nightclub room
was warmly courteous even with our requests to adjust the temperature
as it was too chilly in the large nightclub room.
In general, we found the food to be very good,
the Middle Eastern restaurateurs to be courteous, warm, and helpfully
two non-Middle Eastern women, we were welcomed and genuinely
had the feeling that everyone at the restaurants wanted us to
enjoy our experience with them.
We do wish that more of the restaurants would
include a dance night, and are somewhat at a loss to explain the
lack of belly dancers in some of these restaurants. Overall,
we enjoyed ourselves immensely and cannot wait to do another round
of Middle Eastern restaurant dinners – we didn’t even cover East
or North Bay!
the “Agony & The Ecstasy” by Nisima
It’s an unnerving experience to be “critiqued”
by your peers, but my personal opinion then and now is that when
you perform in public, critiquing just goes with the territory
The BDSS Experience and
Miles Copeland; Doing What He Does Best by Sausan Even
though Miles Copeland’s vision is similar to that of mine
and the majority of belly dancers I have canvassed in my lifetime,
he and I differ in our mission approach to elevating the dance,
and this is where the discussion became a heated debate.
Sirat Al-Ghawazi, Part
8 by Edwina Nearing Begun
in the mid-1970's , the early sections of "Sirat Al-Ghawazi"
were first published under the title "The Mystery of the
Ghawazi." We are happy to be able to respond to the continued
demand for these articles by making them available to our readers