Review: Tasty Palestinian plates

Jaj Al Fahim & Musakhan is smothered in sautéed, sumac onions and topped with half a charbroiled, heavily seasoned chicken. (Photo by Amy Bee)

Sacramento has a new spot for enjoying authentic Palestinian food in a cozy, family-friendly atmosphere designed for date night and large celebratory gatherings alike.

Step through the large ornate front door and into the world of Basha Taste of Jerusalem, where aromatic spices greet you, and the soft rhythms of Middle Eastern music invite you in. (During the stay at home order to stem coronavirus, the restaurant is offering take out, curbside pick up and delivery service through Uber Eats.)

Basha has created a decorative setting, with Old World cityscapes painted along the walls, crystal chandeliers, lacy blue-and-white booths and metal teapots and oil urns that might look gaudy anywhere else. At Basha, it works. Low lighting and crisp, clean tablecloths belie what turns out to be an easygoing, casual menu populated by a sampling of everyone’s favorites, including crispy, deep-fried Falafels ($9.99) and a delectably tender, slowly roasted Lamb Shank dinner ($24.99).

Once seated, friendly, knowledgeable staff bring complimentary Zayt and Zahtar: warm Jerusalem bread with small bowls of olive oil and mixed spices (ground thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame) for dipping. Jerusalem bread, a flattened bagel-like bread with a spongy inner surrounded by a pleasingly crunchy outer, seems to be the workhorse of many dishes, used for scooping up the plethora of meats, rices and sides—and also the main event of the popular Palestinian dish Jaj Al & Musakhan, where it is smothered in sautéed, sumac onions and topped with half a charbroiled, heavily seasoned chicken.

If Jerusalem bread is the sidekick, then the sour, lemony sumac spice is the star of the show, found on virtually every dish and side. Its acidic quality is often paired with pickled cucumbers and beets, where the salty brine adds pop. Plates such as the Shawarma Platter ($16.99-18.99) taste best when the spiced beef or chicken, rice, pickles and beets all find themselves within the same bite.

Plates are as decorative as Basha’s setting. Appetizingly arranged and colorful, the tangy Jerusalem Salad ($11.99) sits perfectly tossed next to a large dollop of tahini-heavy Hummus ($8.99) dotted with whole chickpeas and requisite sumac sprinkled on top. A beautifully assembled Basha Mixed Grill ($19.99-$24.99), offered with kufta or kabobs, pleases the eye like abstract art. Every dish engages the senses. It’s clear presentation is as essential at Basha as is taste and flavor.

With a menu rife with sides and spreads, starters and dips, Basha is designed for patrons to eat family-style so everyone can share, graze and explore. Try out a bite of Kibbeh ($12.99), a diamond-shaped crust of bulgur wheat stuffed with savory ground beef and onions. Scoop up some delectable Mutabal Shamandar (beet dip, $8.99) or Mutabal Beittinjan (roasted eggplant, $8.99). Grab a spoonful of Honey Coleslaw (sweet corn, honey, $8.99). Definitely grab a piece of Jibna Maqaliya (deep-fried Nabulsi cheese, $6.99) before your cousins figure out how spectacular it is and claim it for themselves. Go ahead, try a little bit of all of it! Basha Taste of Jerusalem is the place where family can come together and celebrate life’s victories, all while enjoying delicious Palestinian food served as if prepared by your dearest friends.

Basha Taste of Jerusalem
1833 Fulton Ave.; (916) 486-1944
Good for: Authentic dishes, large gatherings, atmosphere
Notable dishes: Shawarma, Jerusalem Bread

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