Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pita and Hookah Grill

The Pita and Hookah Grill, located at 911 East Colfax Avenue, is wedged amidst yet another block of disparate uses. Between Emerson and Ogden one can take a payday loan and then be confronted with the choice of purchasing a Cricket phone, smoking accessories, a manicure, middle eastern food and time in front of hookah, cigars, or music (either live at the Ogden Theater or on vinyl or CD at Independent Records). And this only accounts for the north half of the block.
It is non-descript, meaning easy to walk by, and I have never seen more than a table or two taken. The dining room for this meal was no different. One takeout order came and went, otherwise we had the dining half of this establishment to ourselves. The dining room is sea foam green on the top half, and wood paneling on the bottom half. Art work was abundant, but was not the standard travel posters touting the beauty of the Tigris River or the Karakoram mountains, but instead an odd mix of botanical prints and poster of Halong Bay, in Vietnam.
One topical piece did include hookah use. Evidently the precursor to the modern hookah was a 55 gallon vessel.
The dining room and hookah lounge are separated by a windowed wall. Even with this barrier, the aroma of exotic tobacco blends was present and clung to our clothes hours later. The lounge is easily 10° warmer than the dining room, pungent with the smell of tobacco, and filled with music. Being a fairly intolerant ex-smoker, this is all the attention I gave to the hookah half of the business.
Dinner began, as all middle eastern meals should, with hummus and pita. The hummus was creamy, with a rich, firm texture. If accolades were based on texture alone, this hummus would earn many. Yet for all its silkiness, it lacked flavor. There was a little trace of tahini, but no hint of lemon or garlic. Billed as a garbanzo spread, it would be wonderful, but billed as hummus, it needs a few more ingredients.
The arayes, which is an oven baked meat pie made with spiced lamb, was as simple as it was good. The piquant lamb, pressed to the thickness of a steak-umm, was nestled in a warm pita and served with lettuce and tomato. It is a little dry and would be well served by tzatziki on the side, but if you like gyros, you will like this.
The combo plate features hummus, roasted vegetables, chicken, gyro and grilled lamb, served atop a bed of rice. The onion was charred on the outside but still pungent, roasted over high heat and seemingly rushed. The green pepper and the tomato were exactly as you would expect, redolent with an earthy sweetness, and firm but giving in texture. The meats are the keystone of the meal. All were moist and well spiced. The highlight was the lamb. Supple cubes of lamb with just a trace of pink in the center.
The greatest drawback is the speed of service. On our visit, and something that has been echoed elsewhere, is the fact that one server covers both the hookah lounge and the dining room. There are long periods of time in which you may want another a drink or another appetizer…pace your meal accordingly. Given the proximity of Shish Kabob Grill, I would likely walk the 1/2 mile to enjoy some of the best hummus in town, consistent service and a distinct lack of smoke.

Pita Grill and hookah bar on Urbanspoon

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