Yemen Cafe in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
The moment you sit down at the table at Yemen Cafe, even before you order, you get a bowl of Marag, a hot lamb soup, a platter of Malawah, a crusty flatbread, and a bowl of Zahawiq, spicy tomato chutney with chilies and herbs.
The servers don’t rush and give you time to look over the menu. The soup and bread make this process more enjoyable, as you’re not starving and can even look around. In the back of the restaurant, we noticed two large steel urns. These were ice-cold water and hot cardamom tea with a can of condensed milk on the side — self-service unlimited.
The place is not fancy and not fussy. At the tables, there are mostly couples of Brooklyn hipsters and those for whom this food is a taste of home. We walked in on a few empty tables. When we were leaving, the place was packed.
Food from this part of the world is one of my favorite. But when I picked five different things to order Tom reasonably pointed out the plates at the next table — portions were substantial:
— Let’s have one appetizer and split one meal. We can always order more later.
We started with Foul, mashed fava beans with tomatoes, onions, and traditional Yemeni spices. This came bubbling hot in a clay pot. Delicious — flavor and texture! The pot was bubbling almost until we cleaned it up.
Lamb Haneeth followed. It was a slow roasted — five hours according to the menu — lamb served over rice and vegetables. It arrived on a plain plate looking very plain — just three hunks of meat which at first seemed to be mostly bones. As we touched these bone-looking hunks with a fork, they fell apart and turned into the most tender strands of meat — barely any bones — and so deeply flavored..
That spicy chutney, though. We had to ask for a second bowl, which came free of charge.
And Tom was right, we were leaving the restaurant at about 2 PM in a total food coma. It is 9 PM as I am writing this and it still feels that I will never have to eat again.
As we were leaving, tables were being pulled together all over the place to accommodate larger groups. This is definitely the way to come here — with lots of friends — so you can try more dishes. It is not surprising that Yemen Cafe has been going strong since 1986 in the trendy Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Definitely going back. Who’s in with me?