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Saha, Berkeley

Ruth Lafler | Mar 26, 201804:54 PM

It looks like there haven't been any posts about Saha since it moved to Berkeley a year and a half ago. That's partly my fault, since I had brunch there last year and didn't report on it (and sadly they are no longer serving brunch/lunch).

Saha was my choice for my birthday dinner (criteria: "interesting" to me, but not too weird or spicy for my parents; not too out of the way/impossible to park; relatively quiet; not exorbitantly expensive; not prix fixe; at least six choices of entrees and not too seafood heavy; interesting desserts). This is always a fraught decision, and this one worked out particularly well.

They gave us what our waitress said was the best table in the house: a table in the window with cushioned bench seating on two sides. It was cozy and just the right size for six people to converse easily. Furthermore, even before they turned down the music, everyone could hear everyone else without raising their voices.

Chef Mohamed Aboghanem is originally from Yemen, and describes his food as "Arabic fusion" including influences from Morocco (bastilla and tagines) to India (curry) with his own twists and a fine dining approach. The menu is wide ranging and includes a lot of dishes that are vegetarian or can be made vegetarian (or even vegan).

We shared a table full of appetizers, and they were all delicious, although I think the consensus favorite was the lamb kofta meatballs (nicely grilled but rare in the center). I had the duck entree (duck breast marinated with honey, sage and mustard then grilled and served with roasted pears, mashed sweet potatoes, and cinnamon-orange reduction), that was one of the best duck dishes I've had in a long time. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their choices (my niece practically licked the plate of her lamb curry -- this after she had requested and received an extra dish of the yogurt sauce on the kofta).

We ordered five different desserts, and they were hits as well. In fact, it was the "Ya Mama" (roasted seasonal fruit, date & almond marzipan, and dark chocolate wrapped in phyllo and baked) that was part of my final decision to choose Saha, and I was not disappointed.

From the wine list (featuring wines that are organic, biodynamic, or both) we chose a Plavac Mali from producer Zlatan Otok (Plavac Mali is a Crotian grape that is a cousin of Zinfandel). With light tannins, neutral oak, and reasonable levels of alcohol, it went well with the food.

Service was friendly and accommodating. The only down note was that the bartender was off for the evening and for some reason that meant that not only were there no cocktails, but most of their specialty sodas were also unavailable.

So to recap: go. You can take your elderly parents, and a group including both your carnivore and gluten-free vegan friends and be happy.

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