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Prior to eating at Sheeba, I knew two things about Yemeni cuisine:
(1) they go through fenugreek like Lindsay Lohan goes through rehab facilities, and
(2) it’s delicious.
Yet despite my shallowness of knowledge of Yemeni food, I’d like to think I can nevertheless contribute something tangible about Sheeba. And I think I can do it with greater soundness of intellect than one of those Yelpers who exclaims, “1st time trying Thai food, and this was the best Pad thai EVAR!!!!11″. So indulge me while I take a stab at characterizing these Indo-Arab hybrid vittles.
The only other Yemeni food I’ve tasted was at the now-defunct Yemen Nights Cafe. But the menus from Yemen Nights and Sheeba don’t overlap at all. I didn’t recognize a single dish. If I drew a Venn diagram of the two restaurants’ menus, the two circles would be mounted further apart than one’s nipples after a bad boob job.
That’s because Sheeba specializes in Yemeni stews, as opposed to the rice dishes that round out the country’s cuisine. Each of Sheeba’s stews is hearty and fulfilling, and is served with tannour — an unleavened bread about 14″ in diameter, which many will liken to Indian naan. This fantastically chewy, freshly-baked tannour is infused with the woody aromas of the logs firing Sheeba’s clay oven. Tannour is the most delicious utensil you’ll ever taste; use it to scoop up hearty bites of stew. These are the stews I’d recommend:
– Agdah ($9.99 chicken, $11.99 lamb) — Succulent bone-in meat, simmered low and slow with potato, peppers, and onions in a rich, garlicky tomato sauce heavily laced with fennel and aniseed.
– Seltah ($8.99 chicken, $11.99 lamb) — The national dish of Yemen. This bubbling cauldron of thick, dark stew is full of fork-tender meats, potatoes, and celery, then topped with a generous dollop of buttery fenugreek froth.
– Fattah ($5.99) — Tender minced tannour bread cooked into a rich gravy of lamb, topped with a vinegary hot sauce and fenugreek froth. This is the biscuits & gravy of Yemen.
Those wishing to bask in familiarity should order a chicken kabob. Indeed, I always thought I’d blow an Oompa-Loompa before recommending anyone eat something so pedestrian as a chicken kabob. And indeed, dry skewers of flavorless white meat known as “chicken kabobs” are readily available at every Middle Eastern restaurant in town and are even becoming mainstream in American diners. Yet, Sheeba works miracles with their chicken kabob, stitching it with sweet smoke from the wood-fired grill. Each piece of flesh is rubbed with the uniquely-Yemeni hawaij — an all-purpose spice blend of black pepper, aniseed, cardamom, and ginger, which prime the meat with an extraordinary peppery-sweet flavor. Tender, juicy, and unlike any kabob you’ve ever had.
Sheeba also serves traditional Yemeni breakfast dishes, although I have yet to determine whether these are available all day, or only in the morning. You see, I don’t know if it’s socially-acceptable in Yemen for sloths like myself to roll out of bed at say, 3:00 PM on a Saturday, and want to eat eggs — but I suspect breakfast-all-day may be one of those American inventions that sociologists finger for the degeneration of our country’s work ethic and sense of responsibility. However, if you’re one of those sickening assholes who can smile before 10:00 AM, you should mosey on down to Sheeba for their shakshouka ($3.99) — the famous Middle Eastern breakfast of eggs cooked with tomatoes and onions — or foul mudamas ($4.99).
Ultimately, I hope this review is useful and substantial. But, hell, this was originally posted on Yelp, a site whose greatest virtue — besides that I can own up to belting out Gloria Estefan ballads in the privacy of my car, and people would still send me “You’re Cool” compliments — is that anyone and everyone can be a critic, no prerequisites. There’s a reason why they don’t have a “You’re Knowledgeable” compliment.
8752 Joseph Campau
Hamtramck, MI 48212