Abraham Abdallat, owner of the new Café Mawal (6006 Fairdale, 713-977-1999), was born in Jordan but moved to Houston seven years ago to open the Sweet Factory on Hillcroft. "Then I lost a lot of money in the stock market, so I had to sell that place," he says. "I opened this restaurant because I want to show Americans our culture and food and how we live."
Café Mawal is as authentic as it can be. "I even called my mother for some of the recipes. Everything is homemade and made from scratch," says Abdallat. He has created an oasis in Houston, replete with a traditional Bedouin tent handmade from goat hair that remains remarkably cool, even in the sweltering heat. On the very large outdoor patio, you can smoke a hookah filled with homemade tobacco, in flavors such as double-apple. "We make the flavoring here. When you buy it from the store, it's dry and doesn't have the real flavor," says Abdallat.
Dish sampled the hummus with meat, which contained cubed steak, a terrific addition to the traditional chickpea dip. We also tried the fabulous batenganieh, or eggplant mixed with finely diced tomatoes and green peppers, and the equally delicious azma, or minced tomatoes, green onions, parsley, garlic and spicy red peppers. We washed it down with a glass of doogh, or yogurt mixed with a little club soda.
The main course was the Mawal signature dish, which was like Middle Eastern nachos — baked pita chips covered in tiny cubes of filet mignon, onions and red and green bell peppers, along with some thick, homemade yogurt. Finally, the kafta kebab, made of lamb and beef served over basmati rice, was both delicious and filling. A slice of homemade baklava and a cup of Arabic coffee was the perfect end to a wonderful meal.
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