Having moved from Oakland-Pittsburgh to Oakland-Cali, I knew there would be sacrifices. No more sandwiches with French Fries on them. No more halushki. But I could not possibly have understood, no more Arab restaurants.
P'burgh has a large Arab community, mostly Syrian, and I grew up with Arab restaraunts aplenty. I walked past seven Arab restaurants between home and campus. How could there be a great metropolitan area without a friendly Syrian place on every block? We might have laughed about such a thing. But here is the reality, and it's hard.
Syrian food is side dishes. It's okra in tomato sauce, and black-eyed peas with kale and carmelized onins. It's wonderful rice with toasted pine nuts. It's tremendous hot breads, like fresh-baked pitas. It's garbanzos with garlic, mashed hot to spread on that bread. Oh, and lots of lamb. Of course.
It's not Persian, though Persian is close. It's not Moroccan or Tunisian or Egyptian. Greek is so similar, but I don't know, not really. Turkish is great, but it's not Syrian.
I am disconsolate, but not without hope. I know it's out there somewhere, just around another corner, hidden in some strip mall. Tell me, won't you please, where is the Syrian restaurant of my dreams?
Oh, and in the East Bay if possible. And they should be reasonable about corkage.