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Four New Restaurants We’re Crazy For

We check out Zaytoon Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar, Saha, Motze, and Babu Ji. 

A spread at Babu Ji.


Zaytoon Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar
Bent on being more than a corner shawarma joint, this amiable spot produces an array of Levantine dishes in a setting conducive to happy hour. The menu ranges from moussaka to mansaf, braised lamb shank bathed in sheep’s-milk yogurt. For all its roaming, though, the kitchen’s greatest strength lies with hummus, rice-stuffed grape leaves, and other familiar meze, which go down nicely with a tahini-tinged bourbon cocktail at the bar. 1133 Solano Ave. (near Kains Ave.), 510-898-1316
—Josh Sens

When the grilled octopus salad comes with roasted grapes and fennel and the baklava is savory and stuffed with salmon, you know you’re in the company of Yemeni-born chef Mohamed Aboghanem, whose menu fixes a West Coast lens on Middle Eastern cuisine. After operating for 12 years in San Francisco, Aboghanem has moved Saha across the bay, but the crosscurrents in his cooking remain the same. His chicken curry can be had with either Palestinian couscous or a quinoa-tofu medley, and his mushroom falafel carries a very California designation: It is both vegan and gluten-free. 2451 Shattuck Ave. (near Haste St.), 510-900-2457


Chefs Cortney Burns and Nick Balla opened this Japanese-influenced spot shortly after announcing their imminent departure from Bar Tartine. It’s got a bare-bones feel that fortunately does not extend to the food, which is as creative as it is skillfully executed. Here you’ll find miso soup made from lima beans and stocked with mung bean tofu, and ginger noodles slicked with tahini sauce. It’s unusual, beautifully nuanced food, the kind the city could use more of. 983 Valencia St. (near 21st St.), 415-484-1206
—Rebecca Flint Marx

Babu Ji
Following the success of their new-wave Indian restaurant in New York’s East Village, Jessi and Jennifer Singh have branched out to the Mission. As in New York, the food tilts merrily toward the inauthentic. You’ll find prawn coconut curry, the curry as sweet and thick as custard and garnished with an edible orchid; tuna tartare, spiked with lime; and naan, served just this side of greasy, with a trio of chutneys. It’s colorful food that’s strong on spirit, if not always execution. 280 Valencia St. (near Brosnan St.), 415-525-4857

Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco 

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