Saturday, August 9, 2014

Good Food, but No

Jerusalem Grill
3259 Wurzbach
(by Ingram Park Mall)

I had been wanting to try this place for more than a couple of years, having heard so many good things about it. But it's a little out of my normal stomping grounds, so it took me until last month to get over there. I took a friend that I don't get to see as much as I used to, since she moved to a more distant part of town. So you know how it is: once you cross Durango you may as well just keep going.*

Middle-Eastern food has been a cuisine of decreasing exoticness since the 1970s. These days, there seems to be a hummus-and-falafel stand on every third corner. This is not good news for people who don't like chickpeas (like me) but is great news for people who like the blend of spices, the lamb, the beef and the soft breads (again, like me) that are the hallmark of kitchens across that part of the world.

This restaurant inhabits an unprepossessing back corner of an undistinguished strip center just across the road from the back of Ingram Mall. There are a few tables outside (empty, of course, during summer noontimes); inside the space is in an L-shape, with the shorter end occupied by what looked like a buffet line, the larger end by the dining room. We were seated at a table by a glass wall and brought water, napkins, utensils and menus immediately. Naturally, there was a television set on a nearby wall, and equally naturally, it was showing a World Cup match that had been played earlier. Within a very few minutes, we had settled on the mixed grill kebab plate (chicken, lamb, beef) for my friend, the lamb gyro plate for me. The waiter returned to take our order.

I don't know if he had as much trouble understanding me as I had understanding him; his accent was pronounced but I don't think it was impenetrable, except that he seemed to mumble, allowing me to only catch one word in four. Reminded me of the Low-Talker episode of Seinfeld. We placed our order and he went away, apparently satisfied. A minute later another waiter appeared and asked to take our order. He said something I didn't catch and gestured toward the buffet area, where the first waiter was busiy being busy, and then asked again what we would like. So we ordered again. At least the second waiter was generally much easier to understand, but while we were eating he seemed to look around the dining room and glower, not just at us, but at other tables as well. It was a little uncomfortable.

Last city inspection: February 2014
two perfect ratings in a row!

What does that mean?
The food came not as quickly as we would have expected. It took long enough for several other tables to order and get their food ahead of us, and for the conversation at our table to run down to a trickle; but not long enough that we began to worry about it.  Both plates were piled high with rice and meat, some seasoned onions and other veggies on the side, and a nice serving of delicious soft bread. The seasonings of the meats (I tried her beef as well as my lamb), the creamy tzatziki sauce (I know, there are Arabic and Turkish and Persian names for yoghurt-and-cucumber sauce too, but it's close enough to the same stuff) and the vegetables were delicious, and everything was cooked well. But I couldn't say that it was better than I'd have gotten at any of the other decent Middle-Eastern restaurants in town. Maybe it's that expectations were inflated after all the glowing raves on the restaurant's Urbanspoon page. Still, I give it an extra half-chili rating just because everything was of that quality. (Usually there is something not quite up to standard.)

So to sum up: yeah, if I'm in that part of town I might go back. But I doubt it.
Jerusalem Grill on Urbanspoon

*For this attitude I should thank, or at least acknowledge, Steve, who lives in New York. Years ago he showed up at my apartment in Austin (on moving day, as it happened) and said that he had been to visit a cousin in Cleveland, and, well, as long as he was in the neighbourhood....

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