Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Local Nuggles and Gordon Bleu

Almost our first act upon arriving in Damascus was to go to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Siwar al-Sham. It’s a non-pretentious place behind the Meridien hotel, serving a combination of Syrian and European cuisine. But the prices are so low that it actually shouldn’t even be called “cuisine.”

We came here a lot when we lived in Damascus, and the waiters often gave us the Arabic menus. Our favorites were the soups and the Arabic dips (I think little in-utero Miriam subsisted almost entirely on Siwar’s baba ghanouj). Sometimes, however, we were given the English menus, and that was always a special treat. And today I bring you something obtained at great peril to my personal sense of shame at being caught taking a photograph in public: a picture of that menu.

This is a newer version of the menu we remember. They removed a few items (no more “local nuggles”) and corrected a few of the more egregious errors (“gordon bleu,” for example). Bizarrely, however, new errors were somehow introduced to items that were previously correct. We spent a few minutes deliberating, and we think that our old favorite, “steak with lemon juice and garlic” is now “slices with citric acid and garlic.”

Miriam Damascus with a hummus mustache

Other highlights include “spinal cord pane” (I wonder if that’s like the “juicy pain” they give you on the Aleppo-Damascus train?), “tongues salad,” and “Spresso.”

For the record, we had baba ghanouj, hummus with meat and pine, and vegetable soup. It was delicious, unlike those nasty local nuggles.


Suzanne Bubnash said...

Mmmmm, I'll have the sheep twists with a side of tongues fatta, and throw in a spinal cord salad, or would you recommend the rocket salad? If my religion didn't frown on it, I might order tee to go with. Granny
PS: can we eat there this summer?

adiamondinsunlight said...

oh, Siwar al-Sham! I know it well - although I prefer Spicy (Shamiyat's cousin) for its more intimate setting.

My all-time favorite Arabic English menu gem is from La Casa, of all places. Above the dessert listings, the menu says:

"Ask your waiter he might know something".

I've often wondered whether I could use the La Casa waiters like Magic 8 balls, and come to them whenever facing a dilemna in my personal or professional life.

However, the Arabic text has the much more mundane "ask your waiter to tell you about the specials of the day". Much less promising!