Friday, April 20, 2012

Naara Cafe

Greetings readers! Val here, hoping everyone is having a great Friday night. I am posting live from Naara Cafe. Thomas is not much for new-fangled data phones, so he will post his review later.

So here goes our first installment of "And that is what he/she said"

She said:
Tonight Thomas and I decided to go to Naara.  It is one of the places we go to relax.
I tend to enjoy Naara because it has the crucial combination of friendly wait staff, good food, and excellent beverages.

Naara is an excellent place to go when you want a light meal, to enjoy hookah, or just hang out with some of your friends.  They have board games, appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, meals, desserts, and a wide variety of drinks.

One of the things I find most interesting about Naara is that the atmosphere is always a little different. It is a great place to people watch, and has probably the most diverse clientele of any restaurant we go to. It is almost always busy, with people of all ages, walks of life, and ethnicity. Conversation can be heard in at least three different languages, and the crowd is always congenial. The only downide for me is that sometimes they are playing some great traditional or modern Middle Eastern music, and at other times they play pop/r&b like you can hear on almost any radio station. I prefer the Middle Eastern music by far. The patio is gorgeous, tastefully decorated in rich earth tones, with live plants and a merrily bubbling fountain. People gather, laughing and talking and playing games.

When we go to Naara, we are usually greeted by Sol Maz, the wife of the manager, Shayan.  They are usually omnipresent during weekend evenings, greeting guests enthusiastically and making sure every one has a great time.

Thomas sitting on the couch outside at Naara
Tonight we weren't very hungry, so we split a Combination Kabob Plate: four skewers of marinated lamb and chicken, served with Basmati rice, hummus, bread and house salad.

Thomas ordred black tea, I prefer sweetened Turkish coffee.  For shisha, we chose a mix of the house rose and raspberry.  This is one of my favorite blends, though next time we return we will choose something different.

In my opinion, the chicken was sublime.  It was very well seasoned, moist and tender.  Usually I prefer lamb, but tonight it was a bit tougher.  Still, it was well flavored and we enjoyed everything.

Akbar Mash-Dee (Persian Ice Cream) and Turkish Coffee
 The Turkish coffee tonight is incredible as ever, rich and sweet, without being cloying or bitter. The black tea is excellent too, full bodied and perfectly brewed.


Dessert tonight was wonderful.  We both shared Sweet Rolls, described as filo dough wrapped around cashews & walnuts and baked to golden brown.  They were delicious.  Crunchy without being messy to eat, lightly sweet, and richly flavored with just the right amount of honey.  We also shared Akbar Mash-Dee (Traditional Persian ice cream, with rose water, real cream, saffron, and ground pistachio.) This by and far is my absolute favorite dish at Naara.  There is not an easy way to describe this ice cream. It is floral due to the saffron and rose water, lightly sweet, with just a bit of earthiness from the pistachio.


He Said:
It was a long week at work. I was chained to a desk most of the week and really needed to blow off some steam. We decided to go to Naara. One of our favourite places to have dinner and hookah.

We were seated at one of the curved, padded benches that has a low table. There are regular tables inside and patio tables out side as well. This one affords some of the best people watching. We always sit on the patio. Everything is so relaxed and inviting out there. Stucco walls painted earth tones, black wrought iron ornaments, ceiling fans, and lights that blend to make the perfect ambiance for an evening relaxing. There is always a good cross section of people there. From the young soldiers trying to "out manly" each other (Been there and done that myself) all the way to multi-generational families (grandfather and grandson playing chess while everyone else eats and chats) they all blend in to make a rich tapestry of interactions.

Neither one of us was really hungry so we decided to split a combo kabob plate. It has very generous portions of marinated chicken and lamb char broiled to perfection with a fresh salad (lettuce and greens with a light vinaigrette. Garnished with crumbled white cheese and sliced green olives), Perfectly cooked basmati rice, tasty hummus, and fresh grilled pita.

She said the lamb wasn't up to par, I didn't see it. Tasty, moist, with perfect char marks and not over done. The chicken was the same. The hummus was fresh and full flavored without any one of the spices overpowering the earthiness of the chickpeas. Fresh. Grilled. Pita... 'nuff said there. What really stood out for me tonight was the perfect balance of flavours in the salad. I usually don't like olives, but decided to try them out with the salad. Whoa! They fit in and made an incredible balance to the greens. The whole meal was a balance of flavours that fit so well. If you usually eat your food one thing at a time, try mixing it up with this plate. You will taste new things with every combination.

I usually get the Turkish coffee, but on a lark decided to get the plain black tea.(they have a variety of flavoured teas available) It is served in a utilitarian stainless steel pot with a side bowl of rough sugar "cubes". (real lump sugar) The pot came with 2 attractive glass cups to serve into. I was hooked at the first sip. This was excellent tea. Last time I had tea this flavourful by itself was years ago at the Richmond Arms in Houston. Matter o' Fact: I even ordered a second pot. The glass cups are a great touch because of how beautiful of a color the tea is.

On to the hookah. All the hookahs at Naara are works of art. They even sell them up front. As well as coals and shisha. We got a blend that is a favourite of us both: rose and raspberry. The floral notes of the rose and the slight astringency of the raspberry ( it is real raspberry flavour, not at all "cool-aid-ie") makes a well balanced flavour that is enjoyable for the 3 or so hours we stay and hang out here. There is a separate menu for the varieties of shisha flavours they have. If you are unsure, ask the waitstaff. They are all very knowledgeable and can provide guidance. If you don't want to futz with your coals or just don't know what to do, they have guys walking back and forth every few minutes with baskets of hot coals to help or show you the process.

For dessert we got the Sweet rolls and Val got her usual Persian Ice Cream. The sweet rolls were great tonight, as usual. Each one a few hundred layers of tissue thin pastry with nuts and honey rolled inside. Each a little smaller around than my little finger and slightly crunchy. Val really likes the Persian Ice Cream, but I have to really be in the mood for it. It is very sweet and floral (being made with rose water and such) and can be a little overpowering. (But I don't like some Belgian ales for the extreme floral notes as well.) But their desserts are a great finisher for the meal because they are just the right size so you don't feel all "After dinner mint , sir?" finishing them.

All through the night the Manager Shayan and his Wife Sol Maz circle like a hawks (with smiles plastered on their faces). Their sharp eyes making sure that everything is perfect for their customers and ready to answer any questions or provide for your needs. The wait staff satellite from them so there is never a time you have to wait very long to get more of anything or have questions answered. You can tell that they derive great joy from making sure their customers have a good time.

As an aside:
We bought a hookah from there a couple months ago and are having some issues getting it to smoke right. Shayan overheard us asking one of the staff for pointers and he swooped over and said to bring it in with us next time and he will make sure all is right or fix whatever is wrong. Himself.

Great Food, Great Service, Great Place.
Naara Cafe and Hookah

Naara Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

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