#226: Pita Kitchen Plus

Today I decided I better stop being lazy and get to another post.  And with that I picked out a spot that’s been open for a while now.  That place, tucked back into a corner behind Dimple Records on Santa Clara at Douglas, is Pita Kitchen Plus (I’m not sure what the plus is for – they are also part deli/bakery so maybe that’s it).  This is a Mediterranean restaurant which is the 2nd of it’s kind.  According to their website they have another location on Arden and have been in Sacramento since 2008.

I arrived right at 6PM to a very quiet dining room.  I was the only customer for my entire visit, nearly an hour.  I was greeted right away by the only other person I saw who was both the hostess and server.  She took me to a booth and asked if it was OK, then handed me a menu and let me look over it for a minute while she went into the back and turned on some music in the dining room.  She returned a moment later to take my drink order.  I just went with a Dr Pepper [$2.49].  I definitely needed some time to decide so she left me to study the rather large menu for a while.

I figured I wanted to get some humus as an appetizer and then pick out an entree.  The appetizers are all well priced, most are in the $3-6 range.  Sandwiches (in pita bread) look to be a good lunch option at about $7 a pop.  I was looking for something a bit more substantial as I was pretty hungry so I continued on past the soups into the main dishes and eventually settled on the Shish Tawouq (Curry marinated boneless skinless chicken breast, grilled with tomatoes and onions. Served with rice, Hummus, and pita bread)[$18.95].  Since this conveniently came with the hummus I was craving I picked out another little appetizer, a Kibbeh (Ground bulgur [cracked wheat] and onions stuffed with our freshly minced meat, onions and spices shaped into a football and deep-fried to a golden crisp)[$2.75].

Within about 10 minutes of ordering I had the salad for my entree as well as a complimentary starter of pita chips and dip.  The salad was super green and fresh with slices of red onion, bell pepper, cucumber and ripe tomatoes in an olive oil and vinegar  dressing.  The pita chips were nice and very crunchy.  This greenish dip that came with it was very light and cool.  If I didn’t have a bunch of food coming I probably would have demolished this whole basket.

My entree showed up pretty quickly, just 7 or so minutes after the salad and chips.  It was a pretty big plate.  Arranged around a big mound of rice were slices of grilled chicken, two tomato halves and a couple big chunks of red onion.  Off to the side was a good-sized serving of hummus.  Two halves of warm pita bread were served in a side basket, wrapped up in a napkin to keep the heat in.

Almost everything about this plate was awesome.  The rice was tender and tasty, the tomatoes nice and juicy and the onions…oniony.  The hummus was amazing as was the soft, warm pita bread I used to scoop it up.  The chicken, unfortunately, was the weak link here.  It was overcooked, pretty dry and a bit tough.  Most of it anyway – a few of the thicker pieces weren’t that bad.  Coming to it’s aid was the creamy, oddly pinkish-colored garlic sauce.  That was really delicious and I used just about the entire little dish to give the chicken a bit of moisture and additional flavor.

A few minutes into my main dish my server returned and delivered the kibbeh, which she admitted she had forgotten about but luckily the cook had remembered.  As it happens I had forgotten about it too so it was almost like a bonus.  This was really interesting.  I cut the crisp little oblong kibbeh in half to reveal packed, steaming hot minced meat inside.  The texture of the crunchy exterior was strikingly similar to a churro, so much so that at first I could have swore I tasted cinnamon, but it was just my brain playing tricks on me.  The spiced meat was really savory and delicious and I loved the crunchy shell.  I would order this again in a heartbeat.

After my meal, along with the check, I was given a couple small pieces of baklavaa (fill strudels stuffed with walnuts and cinnamon,baked and lightly topped with our homemade orange-blossom sugar syrup)[$2.95] on the house.  These were freakin’ tasty, super sweet and flakey.

Other the dry chicken, everything else was really good, the server was friendly and attentive and I would be inclined to return and try a non-chicken dish in the future.  I do hope that this wasn’t a typical amount of business since it was Monday, because if that’s the case then they won’t last much longer.

#224: Kabob & Gyro Grill

Tonight I was joined by the whole family for dinner at the new Kabob & Gyro Grill.  This new Greek/Mediterranean joint is located in the Family Fitness shopping center at Foothills & Junction.  They are in the old Kazoku Teriyaki spot by Original Pete’s.  Kazoku has moved around the corner, to the far opposite side of the center, into a bigger location.

They kind of snuck in here while I wasn’t paying attention.  A reader tipped me off to them.  They don’t have a website, but from reading some reviews it sounds like they have a location in Elk Grove already and that this one has been open for at least a month and a half.  While I was inside I heard them discussing with a customer another location they are putting in out in Rancho Cordova, so I’ll definitely be looking out for that on future lunch breaks.

I arrived a couple minutes before everyone else and stepped in to look around.  The basic layout is the same as it was with Kazoku, a narrow space with the kitchen on the left and dining on the right.  The only major change I noticed was that there is now black carpeting instead of the light blue tiles.  The chairs are the same but the tables are new.  On the menu, for the most part, you have a choice of steak, chicken or lamb in either kabobs, wraps or plates.  The prices seem to be in line with a good Greek place I like over in Rancho (Eat A Pita).  Everything is between $6-13.  For $2.50 more you can add a drink and either fries, basmati rice or a greek salad.

The family arrived and soon after, a similarly sized group.  I thought my people were right behind me when I jumped up to get my order in before the rush, but apparently they were still looking at menus.  Luckily the observant cook noticed this and, as I stepped away from the register, asked me if I would like him to prepare my order with the rest of my party.  That was a good plan and I appreciated him offering to do so.

Our food took maybe 10-15 minutes.  After I ordered there was a very consistent stream of people coming in and the guy working the counter never really had much chance to help out in the kitchen, leaving one cook to handle everything.  Even so, they did a decent job of keeping up with the level of business.

Most of the family ordered the Combination Plate (thin marinated slices of steak & chicken)[$9.99].  All platters come with basmati rice, salad, hummus, tzatziki sauce and a hot piece of pita bread.  They were pretty good sized plates.  Everyone was really happy with this.  I tried some of the hummus with pita bread (which really was hot) and it was delicious.  I might go for a side of that next time.  My dad got the Lamb Kabob (two skewers of marinated lamb cooked over fire)[$12.99].  All Kabob dishes come with onions and tomatoes, served over basmati rice with salad, hummus, tzatziki sauce and a hot piece of pita bread.  This looked just as good and had nice big chunks of juicy-looking lamb.

I ordered the Steak Shawarma (Thin, marinated slices of steak)[$5.99].  All shawarma dishes are topped with fresh lettuce, onions, tomatoes and tzatziki sauce, all wrapped in a hot thin bread.  Basically it was a shawarma burrito.  They grill the whole thing a bit to crisp up the wrap.  This was much bigger than I expected for $6.  I didn’t really need the side of fries I got with the $2.50 combo adder.  Those were incredibly hot and crisp, right out the of the frier no doubt.  They were a bit bland, but some ketchup easily remedied that.  The shawarma wrap was fantastic.  The steak wasn’t as heavily seasoned as it is at the Eat A Pita in Rancho, where I most often get shawarma, but it was still quite flavorful.  The lettuce and onions were both fresh and crisp and the tomatoes were good as well, though perhaps could have been slightly more ripe.  They ask how spicy you’d like your food, mild, medium or spicy.  I went with medium and I did notice a bit of spice, though next time I’m definitely going to try spicy.

All in all I was impressed.  The price is right and the food is solid.  The handful of other reviews I’ve read have been almost unanimously positive.  My mom said that while she likes Daphne’s, she thought this was better.  I would say that it’s a bit better than the Milo’s Grill in the Galleria, which is probably some of the better Greek food in Roseville.  As I said earlier, I’ll definitely be looking out for their future Rancho Cordova location as well.

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

#153: Giraffe Restaurant (CLOSED)

When I first heard about Giraffe Restaurant a couple months ago I was curious, mostly because the name really doesn’t tell you anything at all, unless of course they served tasty giraffe meat, which for the record I would totally try.  I looked into it briefly once or twice and skimmed over the menu.  Nothing really popped out at me at the time.  As I was looking over my list this week to figure out where to go next, I visited their website once more.  This time, however, a good portion of their menu sounded really appealing.  I must have been in the right mood to process it.  They are located at the corner of Fairway and Pleasant Grove, across from Nugget near Lowes.  They serve an interesting mix of American, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.  American was represented by a burger, but most everything else seemed to be of the other two.

I met up with my mother at 6PM for dinner.  I was a bit early.  From out front it looked like they had two entrances, neither of which is very clearly marked, they kind of blend into the glass front.  I took a gamble with the door on the right, underneath the main Giraffe signage.  This turned out to be the correct one.  I found myself in a little waiting area with some chairs, a copy of the menu on a table to the other side and a woman standing there ready to greet me.  The other door leads right into the middle of the dining room.  I told her I was waiting for one more and she asked if I would like to be seated or wait.  I chose to be seated and we rounded a small divider wall  and came back to the front by the windows where I was given a booth.  The dining room is very open as is the kitchen, which you can see most of from your seat.  The ceiling above this side was crazy high.  Behind me was one of several giraffe decorations and some plants sitting on what must have been a counter people sat at in whatever this place used to be.  There was just one other person in the dining room, sitting in the center at a small table.  Eventually he was joined by one more.  Another couple came in while I was waiting and had apparently been here before because the waitress said she remembered them.  Finally, a mother and daughter showed up, curious what kind of restaurant it was (I suspect most people in Roseville are wondering this when they see the name), then after looking at the menu for a moment took a seat.

The waitress, who was the only person tending to the customers while I was there, brought me a large cup of ice water.  Soon my mom joined and she received water as well.  The waitress asked if we would like anything else to drink but we both stuck with water.  They have a very limited beverage selection right now.  According to their website they are waiting on their beer and wine public notice to be processed.  For the time being it’s soda, tea and coffee.  We went over the menu (which strangely opened like a wall calendar rather than like a book).  I think we both picked out an entree fairly quickly, and I then turned my attention to the starters.  I was curious about the “Chicken White Soup,” although by the time we were placing our order I forgot to ask about it.  Instead we ordered the Eggplant Dip (Roasted eggplant, onion, garlic and tomato with dairy sauce and pita bread)[$5.89].  For my entree I chose the Grilled Half Cornish Hen (Half a hen {13oz} with grilled tomato and sweet pepper, cup corn, garlic toast, with choice of pomegranate or mushroom sauce)[10.89].  I figured the mushroom sauce would probably be good although I was very curious about the pomegranate sauce and had planned on getting that.  I completely failed to notice that she didn’t ask me.  A minute after she had left she came back and very apologetically informed me that they were out of the pomegranate and asked if the mushroom was OK, so that’s how that worked itself out.

Less than 10 minutes after we ordered we received an appetizer of fried pita chips with a white dipping sauce.  The chips were very crunchy and warm.  The sauce was light, cool and had a definite cucumber flavor to it.  She returned just a minute or two later with the eggplant dip and asked if we liked the sauce, then listed off some of it’s ingredients and compared it to Tzatziki sauce.  It was really good and this seemed to be a standard complimentary appetizer.  I saw her deliver one to each of the other tables.  Our eggplant dip was warm and was served with soft triangles of pita bread.  It was pretty difficult to scoop any of the dip up with the bread alone and we had to use one of our forks to assist.  Neither of us was really into this, but I think it’s because we’re not that crazy about eggplant (I’ve not had a lot of eggplant, so I didn’t really consider it when ordering it).  It wasn’t bad at all, in fact once the initial eggplant flavor in a bite subsided, allowing the other ingredients to shine, it was pretty decent.  While we finished all the pita bread, there was probably about half of the dip remaining.  Our waitress offered to bring more bread out when she came by to clear the two plates.

It was roughly 15 minutes between when these appetizers first arrived and when the entrees came out.  The presentation was nice on both.  My moms Beef Stroganoff with Rotini (chopped beef, mushroom, bell pepper, white sauce and three-blended cheese with fresh herbs and vegetables)[$8.49] came in a big bowl that was mostly rim.  After digging in she realized that the bowl was deceptively deep and that there was considerably more there than we thought.  She ended up taking half of it to go for leftovers.  She said the beef was very tender and that overall the dish was quite good.

My grilled half Cornish hen was quite large and covered in the white mushroom sauce.  The sauce had lots of good sized slices of mushrooms along with a full mushroom off to the side, next to a colorful trio of grilled veggies consisting of a big slice a zucchini, half a tomato and a full sweet pepper.  On the other side was a little cup of corn, topped with a bit of shredded cheese.  I took a bite of this and was surprised at how peppery it tasted, as if it had been covered in invisible black pepper(though some coarsely ground pepper was clearly visible, it just didn’t seem to match what I was tasting).  It was buttery and good, just wow, really peppery also.  Each of the veggies were soft from the grill and cut easily with my butter knife.  The zucchini and tomato were very tasty.  I didn’t get to the pepper before I started to get full.  The hen was outstanding.  Perfectly prepared, the white meat portions were moist and tender, and the dark meat was fatty and full of flavor.  A bit of delicious skin here and there and it was a real treat.  The mushroom sauce was better than I anticipated, it was very rich and the mushroom slices themselves were wonderful as well.

The amount of meat was a lot more than expected and I had enough to take home for a small lunch tomorrow.  I might have attempted to eat it all there but after my mom had requested a container for hers, the waitress suggested dessert and described a special.  She was very soft spoken the entire time and so I didn’t catch the name of this dessert, only some of the description, and I had to have her repeat part of it again.  It was described as being similar to flan, which had me mostly in on that alone, with raspberry sauce on top.  I went ahead and ordered one.  It came out in a mug and appeared to be a white custard.  The raspberry sauce was drizzled on top in the shape of a heart.  It was pretty awesome.  My mom best described it as a very good vanilla bean ice cream, but not frozen.  It had the consistency of something between a mousse and creme brulee custard.  Overall, pretty amazing.  I asked her what it was afterwards and she told us Panna Cotta.  I’ve heard of it but I’ve pretty certain this was the first time I’ve ever had it.  I’m a fan.  I didn’t take the receipt with me but I think it was something like 5 or 6 bucks.

So Giraffe Restaurant, an oddly named place with mixed cuisine.  Our waitress was excellent from start to finish and all the food was fresh and delicious.  Given the quality and portions I would say that the prices were extremely reasonable, even on the low side in some areas.  I would definitely return.