A couple of months ago a Luxor cabbie recommended Old Jerusalem as a great place for homestyle Middle Eastern eats. I had forgotten about this until today, when a friend echoed the suggestion.
I was surprised by the breadth of the menu, which included way more than the standard shawerma. I asked the waiter for help deciding between the jew's mallow soup and a lamb and white beans entree listed in the "everyday specials" section. The server suggested that I order the special of the day, bamyeh, which I noticed seemed popular with the mostly Arabic-speaking clientele.
The entree was served with several sides, including pickled turnips, little green olives (looked like picholines), tahini mixed with parsley and garlic, and a spicy, tomatoey mix the server described as "Turkish salad."
The tahini was very garlicky and quite good. The Turkish salad was the only really spicy dish I tried; I liked this contrast against the milder dishes.
Bamyeh, the Tuesday special, was chunky of fatty lamb and okra immersed in a rich tomato sauce. This was served alongside a big plate of long grain rice, yellowed by saffron and mixed with chopped parsley.
Pretty much everything on my plate seemed like it had an ingredient that had been featured in the New York Times most emailed health articles over the past year. Antioxidant rich tomatoes? Check. Anti-inflammatory garlic? Check.
I was impressed by the warm service and small touches. Fresh mint leaves were added to my glass of Alwazah tea. The dessert menu was intriguing (shredded wheat over goat cheese with honey was one dish) but I couldn't even eat half of my lunch, so I had to bag everything up and head back to work.
I'll definitely be back.
Another report on Old Jerusalem: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/367388
2976 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110