Number 20: Vegan Kibbeh at Saha Arabic Fusion

Categories: SFoodie's 50
Saha_vegan_kibbeh.jpg
Albert Law
Saha's vegan kibbeh, $9.
SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition
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Though more than a third of the dishes on its menus include meat, Saha -- Mohamed and Marmee Aboghanem's stylish Tenderloin restaurant -- has achieved cult status for devoting a huge chunk of its menu to vegan dishes. And we're not just talking hummus. Stuffed and fried avocados wrapped in frilly knaffe, or pastry threads. Maklouba, rice, and spices layered with eggplant, yogurt, and tofu. One of the best of Mohamed's vegan dishes? His interpretation of kibbeh, a Lebanese-Jordanian dish that, almost by definition, is made with a blend of lamb and bulgur.

Aboghanem's vegan kibbeh changes with the seasons. The exterior shell stays the same -- bulgur wheat, pressed into an elongated oval -- and so does the dab of Yemenese bayaa, a leek-herb pesto, on top. Sometimes the filling is dominated by bell peppers and yellow squash, other times it's butternut. On SFoodie's last visit, when we cut through the shell mushrooms, sauteed until they concentrated into an umami-laden mass, spilled out. The fried bulgur shell's granular crunch is the source of the kibbeh's immediate appeal, and then the multilayered flavors unfold and expand: A hit of cilantro, an intimation of saffron, the bite of pepper, the earthy pulse of the mushrooms. It's a dish as rich and inviting as the restaurant itself.

Saha Arabic Fusion, 1075 Sutter (at Larkin), 345-9547, www.sahasf.com.

Other favorites in this series:
21: Starter Bakery's hazelnut kouign amann
22: Pupusas at Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo
23: 2 a.m. apple fritter at Bob's
24: Le Sanctuaire's vadouvan
25: Crab louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack
26: Soy sauce chicken from Happy Bakery & Deli
27: Locanda's Jewish-style artichoke
28: Local: Mission Eatery's asparagus-egg sandwich
29: Memphis Minnie's 18-hour brisket
30: Custard buns from City View
31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami
32: Panisse frites from Frances
33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi
34: Fatted Calf's chorizo
35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas
36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager
37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company
38: Broken Record's crawfish grits
39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 
40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

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Saha Arabic Fusion

1075 Sutter, San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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