As we wandering back from the neighborhood shop-a-thon in Hayes Valley on Friday night, we stopped into Mazzat, the new Lebanese cafe at 501 Fell, that was celebrating its opening night that evening.
From the menu, which includes a lot of espresso drinks, I'd guess it will operate as a coffee shop by day and sit-down restaurant at night. The owners seemed surprised that customers were expecting table service rather than ordering at the counter, so they were a little understaffed and overrun, but seemed aware that they'd have to monkey with that.
The menu is divided into hot and cold mezze, salads, entrees, red and white house wine, and about five types of usual suspect beers (Anchor, Heineken, etc.). Prices were very reasonable--mezzes were around the $4 - $6 range, I think. We ordered hummus, fattoush, grilled halloumi, and a chicken-artichoke-flatbread hot mezze--that was enough for a light dinner for three ladies.
The generous hummus portion was nicely garlicky and came with pitta lined with grill marks. I love fattoush, but didn't love the one I had here--it was a plain chopped romaine salad with a few thumbnail-sized fried pita croutons on top instead of a bread salad with lots of cucumber and a delightful kick of sumac--it wasn't a bad salad by any means, just not what I think of when I order fattoush. I didn't try my friend's artichoke flatbread, but it looked good. I would have liked to try the kibbeh, but they ran out before we arrived.
I haven't sampled the menu widely enough to have any kind of verdict, but it seems like there are two possibilities: this can be another Bay Area cafe with so-so Mediterranean food, or they can move past timid renditions of native cuisine and discover that they opened a restaurant in a place where customers value robust, authentic, flavorful and unique dishes that are prepared with care.
The owners seemed like such kind folks I can't help but be a cheerleader for option #2, and will probably go back in a month or two when they've gotten into the groove of it.
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