Jeannie Berlin knows that when you've got food on your face you've had a good meal.
I think I have a slight milk allergy. There's something about dairy products that makes me sneeze. In the past few months, any time I have something with yogurt or cheese or even *eugh* a glass of straight milk, I sneeze loudly and embarrassingly for about the amount of time it takes me to dig my bottle of generic allergy pills out of my messenger bag. As I did tonight at Cafe Jaffa. So I'm writing this review in a mild OTC fog. I'm thinking maybe obtaining a couple vegan cookbooks might be in order if my sinuses are to rest in peace. Expect to see some vegan-oriented material in the coming weeks.
That said, Cafe Jaffa has an excellent atmosphere -- a picturesquely battered interior, jeweled lamps and brightly painted tables, and good food for a decent price. You will have to deal with the (to me) slightly nauseating scent of people's sizzling shish kebabs frying as they're taken to the table on metal skillets, but if you don't mind the smell of meat cooking, you will love the vegetarian friendly menu. I had an Israeli white wine -- It was nearly expensive as my meal, but interesting. Dry, with a strong hint of honey. I think you might like it. We started off our meal with a plate of "Potato Bourekas Cafe Jaffa Style", a savory cross between a dumpling and a knish: mashed potatoes with onions and spices wrapped in a noodle-like dough (it reminded me of the dough they make lotus seed buns out of), seasoned with sesame seeds and fried. Eric ordered the Falafel Plate with Tahini Dressing, which was fresh and well prepared if (to me -- I'm not a fan of salad) a little on the bland side.
I had the Big Momma. My name for it, not theirs, but a name that I think is apt: a hommus, baba gannouj, and falafel sandwich. It was delicious -- crunchy, savory, with a sweet but tart bite from the baba -- but drippy. I felt a little like a revoltingly mannered diner in a movie as I dove into my dinner slurped up hommus and baba juice and got a little bit of falafel on my nose somehow. Mmmmm. Always a good sign.
We took some baklava home, and it was good, but not as good as the best baklava I have ever had, which I had in 1995 at a Greek Orthodox church's bake sale and was one of the earliest "hey, food can be stunning" experiences in my memory. But then again, no baklava will ever measure up to that. Cafe Jaffa comes close, though.