by SUSAN HAMILTON and CARRIE SCOZZARO & r & Shishes and Mezza DINING
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's a classic story of living the American dream. Three guys come to America, meet at their church and next thing you know, they're in business together.
"We met a year ago at a north-side mosque," explains Ali Adwan. "We took turns cooking for friends together. Everybody told us our food was so good. They said, 'Why don't you guys open a restaurant?'"
Early last month, Adwan and his friends, Abdul Alshehari and Nasser Aldobashi, did just that -- their SHISH KABOB HOUSE in north Spokane features Mediterranean Middle Eastern cuisine. True to its name, the Shish Kabob House entrees are mostly kebabs, but appetizers -- symbols of Middle Eastern hospitality -- are also abundant at the eatery.
Middle Eastern cuisine is down-home yet sophisticated. Influenced and enriched by centuries of travelers and successive waves of invaders, Middle Eastern flavors are a delicate balance of savory and sweet. A variety of spices and aromatic herbs are essential to the preparation of Middle Eastern dishes, and they season ingredients such as lamb, garlic, yogurt, lentils, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, eggplant, rice and bulghur in creative dishes.
Adwan, Alshehari and Aldobashi prepare family recipes from their native Yemen and Jordan at the Shish Kabob House. The combination platter ($10) showcases the house's appetizers: Hummus, foul (fava beans), baba ganoush (eggplant) and lebeneh (yogurt and cucumber) are flavorful spreads for pita bread; falafel (garbanzo patties), tabbouleh (bulghur salad), rice-stuffed grape leaves, cheese and olives round out this platter that's perfect for sharing. Soups (including lentil), salads and sandwiches are also offered ($3-$4.50). The fattoush salad highlights pieces of bread mixed with tomatoes and lettuce, all done up in a lemony-garlic dressing; chicken shawarma is marinated, grilled and wrapped in pita bread with veggies.
Kebabs run the gamut from traditional lamb and beef to Northwest-inspired salmon and halibut ($6-$11). All meats are marinated, grilled and served with tomatoes, onions and peppers as well as basmati rice and house salad. Special kebab plates are offered daily. Desserts ($1.50) include baklava, basboosa (semolina cake) and date cookies.
For Shish Kabob House's grand opening this Saturday, Adwan proclaims, "We're giving a combo appetizer and dessert for free to customers!"
Isn't that part of the American dream?
-- SUSAN HAMILTON
Shish Kabob House, 14819 N. Newport Hwy, is open daily 11 am-8 pm. Call 466-9440.
Fiesta on Fourth DINING
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & IESTA MEXICANA has thrown its sombrero into the North Idaho ring, expanding from its current Spokane location on Grand Boulevard to a prime corner location on Coeur d'Alene's busy "restaurant row." Owners Miguel Amador and Travis Glasser, joined by former Spokane store employee Pablo Chavez, spent three months remodeling the building. Formerly a Godfather's Pizza, the building most recently was home to Los Sanchez, a forgettable fast-food-type joint with the unfortunate distinction of making news for undocumented employees whose traffic stop on the way to work resulted in a trip to central booking last April.
The remodel transformed the building into a festive place with all the d & eacute;cor we've come to expect: brightly painted, heavily-stuccoed walls; hanging chilis, parrots, suns, moons, etc., and the unmistakable sounds of piped in rancheros, corridos, and the like. Capable of seating 142, the restaurant includes an open, "family style" seating area and booths flanking the near floor-to-ceiling windows with an industrial view of Appleway/Best Avenue and the legendary Davis Donuts.
The menu is satisfyingly predictable -- burritos, enchiladas, combo plates -- accompanied by explanations so gringos (like myself) can tell the difference between mole and mariscos. Portions are generous and pricing is reasonable. According to Chavez, signature dishes include a saut & eacute;ed prawns appetizer, handmade chile relleno, and the Fiesta Mexicana Burrito -- a flour tortilla filled with beans, rice and a choice of chicken, shredded beef or ground beef, with a full array of toppings. Menu surprises range from a large a la carte menu to half a dozen vegetarian dishes -- tofu fajitas! -- and several "sampler" options for both appetizers and entrees. Adult beverages are limited currently to beer and wine, although the restaurant is looking into expanding its liquor license.
Another planned expansion is to the restaurant's website, www.orderfiesta.com, which currently allows you to order online from the Spokane location. Chavez hopes to have online ordering available from the Coeur d'Alene location soon.
With so many Mexican restaurants in the area -- Rancho Viejo, Toro Viejo, La Cabana, Las Chavelas -- what does Fiesta Mexicana offer that's unique? Quality, says Chavez.
"We try to serve great food at a great price. More than anything, though, is our service. The customer gets treated like part of the family."
-- CARRIE SCOZZARO
Fiesta Mexicana, 2605 N. Fourth St., Coeur d'Alene, is open Sun-Thu 11 am-9:30 pm and Fri-Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Call (208) 665-2400.