Friday, June 22, 2007

middle eastern: i strongly recommend SABABA PITA BAR



SABABA PITA BAR
8, Alley 54, Ln 118, Heping E Rd, Sec 2
(02) 2738-7769

website: sababapita.com

hours: 11 AM to 9 PM
closed Sundays

$

CASH ONLY

Kid friendliness: no high chairs and small seating area - so tough for strollers, though finger foods quite kid friendly. Recommend calling ahead and getting food-to-go if you have lots of kids or baby.

Visit reviewed: 6/6/2007

The hummus here will make you hum about Sababa to all your friends afterwards. And if you've never had hummus before, you should give it try and have one of their sandwiches as well. After having it a few weeks ago, I had been thinking about the food ever since. It's simple and light and easy on the wallet- yet there are complex and hearty flavors in the food. They have pita sandwiches (NT$98) and plates (NT$158) with combo option of adding fries and a drink (add NT$50).

So last night, I got some more Sababa food to go and I have to say it traveled better than I thought it would back to my dining table.

The first time, I made the mistake of just ordering a hummus combo plate, the plata sababa (NT$158), as my lunch. Hummus is a creamy blend of chickpeas and sesame tahini with lemon and garlicky flavors to keep everything interesting, and plated with the roasted eggplant gives it a slightly sweet partner to dip your pita bread in.



While it was sizeable- it was more like an appetizer with a plate full of hummus, roasted eggplant and sliced pita to dip it in. I had to ask my friends to try it out so that I didn't feel forced to finish it- all hummus and pita and no meat was starting to feel a bit heavy and I was eyeing my friend's combo pita sandwich.



my friend's combo sandwich, not my chicken pita!



This time, I was smart, I ordered a Chicken Soulvaki Pita (NT$98) as my protein and the plata sababa to share, as well as some Moroccan cigars (NT$88 for 2) on the side. Everything came in paper bag (smartly imprinted with Sababa's info and a map) so the cigars stayed crispy and didn't get soggy like some fried foods to-go do. My chicken pita was stuffed full of large diced chicken breast pieces with some tomato slices and filled with green homemade yogurt sauce which made the sandwich moist without being too greasy (like mayo). The pita was soft and fresh- and they even stuff the part they cut off into your sandwich- which I promptly used to dip into the hummus.

The Moroccan Cigars were like I remembered the first time- a bit spicy with ground beef and pine nuts, wrapped in long cigar-like egg roll skin, deep fried and crispy.



It's usually made with phyllo dough, but the egg roll skin gives it a unique fusion twist which is perfect to cater to the Taiwanese tastes without taking away from its original flavor. My vegetarian friend had the Egyptian Cigars (NT$88 for 2), which were made from spinach and herbed cheddar- but must warn you, it's quite spicy! Much spicier than the beef and without warning on the menu. I also didn't spot any spinach in my bite, but he liked it. I think I also like it because it reminds me of taquitos and while it's quite different, it's similar enough to make me happy.

It's not easy to find since it's located off in the alley off a lane off a street, but check out their map on the website and look for the red sign hanging outside their little shop. They also don't have any sweets/desserts, so if you are still hungry afterwards, you can get a smoothie or drink next door, especially on a hot day. (I got the guava/grapefruit juice and it was very refreshing and surprisingly good combo).



The English menu is written on the chalkboard behind the counter, as well as menus with both English and Chinese floating around the front. You order at the bar as well as pick up your own food when your number is called and I recommend getting there a little before noon to beat the lunch college crowd to get a seat.



We lucked out by doing just that and getting a table in the back before it quickly filled up. There's probably no more than 18 seats or so as well as seating at the pita bar, and it feels sort of like fast food joint with all the tiled tables, but a wee bit nicer. They also make everything to order, so if you get there before the rush, you don't have to wait extra long to eat! If you are getting food to go, I recommend calling ahead so you don't have to wait. Also, to-go orders are buy 5 get 1 free, so try something different next time for your office lunch or order food to go and let the kids try something different.

There's also quite a few options for vegetarians that are filling and satisfying for even non-vegetarians. Besides the plata sababa and Egyptian cigars, there's also an Eggplant or Falafel pita sandwiches as options, or the Labneh Eggplant Salat, which had a lot of homemade yogurt cheese - which is more an appetizer plate rather than a lunch or dinner plate as we discovered.



Opened by the same people who brought Citizen Cain to Taipei, Sababa has quickly gained many loyal customers. I heard a lot about it on the various Taiwan forums before getting a chance to visit and now they have opened another location, as well as offer franchising opportunities- so you might see more and more Sababa's around town.

Our dinner to go was NT$530 (US$16) for 2 sandwiches, 4 cigars and 1 plata sababa and very satisfying- can't beat that price at most of the western/foreign eateries in town! Even in LA, 2 pita sandwiches, hummus and sides would be about the same, maybe even more.

OTHER LOCATIONS

Gong Guan branch
17, Lane 283, LuoSiFu (Roosevelt) Rd, Sec 3, 1F
(02) 2363-8009
Hours: 11:30 am-9:30 pm

Yong Kang branch
No. 3, Lane 12, Yong Kang St
Phone: (02) 2327 9159
Fax: (02) 2327 9159
Sunday~Thursday 11am~10pm
Friday&Saturday 11am~10:30pm

Breeze Center at
Taipei Main Station
(02)6632-8999 # 2557
Fax: 02-2389-5720
Monday - Friday 11am ~ 9:30pm
Saturday - Sunday 11am ~ 10pm

Who else recommends it?
Taipei Times

20 comments:

mamamoon said...

Oh yeah, hummus is yummus. Drool. I could also go for some good falafel...I'll have to try this place!

Anonymous said...

OMG, thanks for your post! Being away from Taiwan, I miss Sababa Pita Bar so much!!! The judicious use of spices at Sababa, their fresh pitas, never sour-hummus, refreshing mint tea, yummy yummy yummy falafels, and incrediblely roasted eggplant...the list goes on...

The price is very reasonable, agreed!

There are also two ladies behind the counter who are absolutely delightful and lovely. Great service and food!

-Amy

Ilona said...

Some update for Sababa Pita Bar...
Gong Guan location now opens for breakfast with a great Sababa breakfast menu.
Mon-Fri 7:30am~11:30am
Sat&Sun 11am~3pm

They also are looking for Sababa lovers to open more franchises. Soon I might see one in my neighbor ;-)

joanh said...

mamamoon: we'll have to go soon! i haven't been in awhile

anonymous: you're right, i haven't really seen any place quite like this in the states.

ilona: thanks for the info! I had heard about them and the breakfast... hopefully we'll see more and more open up!

j'adore food said...

This is one of my favorite restaurants in Taipei! Glad you strongly recommend it, too!

joanh said...

j'adore: the more i eat there, the more i like it!

billy said...

They seem to be popping up everywhere. I've going to the one in Taipei Main Station a lot. I love their food.

Have you tried Persian Heaven? If you like kabobs it's the place to go. They usually have an ad in the China Post. I went their last week and they said they will open another branch inside the Living Mall in mid-April.

Anonymous said...

Be careul in Persian Heaven--the owners (Amini and Ali) and employees have been banned from several restaurants in town, including Carnegies, for fighting! Better not complain about the food....

Anonymous said...

Do be careful at Sababa if you are a strict vegetarian. The Falalel balls are fried in the same oil as the chicken. The owners claim that don't have space to put another fryer in. Too bad for a place that would otherwise be good for vegetarians.

Anonymous said...

Persian Heaven, DONT try it, Bad Food, Bad Service and Bad attitude. The place is mostly empty. Even their long term iranian customers are gone!

Anonymous said...

Persian Heaven restaurant is Bad, service and Food are both terrible, if you eat there, you may end up in hospital.

Anonymous said...

Iranian Food in Taiwan is hard to find, so i went to persian heaven, what a mistake that was..bad food, i end up with stomach problems.

Anonymous said...

Middle eastern food, or Halal food, if u are looking for good food, avoid persian heaven, this is the worse in taiwan.

Anonymous said...

persian heaven, are they still in business? i heard they were closing down..

Anonymous said...

no, they are still open, just that no one goes there anymore, only 1-2 tables each night, less than 3 months i heard they will close it.

Anonymous said...

I went there on a Saturday night after booking for 19:30. The first thing I noticed is that there is no proper kitchen, simply an oil fryer a couple of pans and a microwave oven. Second the staff was two young Taiwanese students of which no one looked like a cook. The third that at the time of my visit, a certifiably middle-eastern couple were leaving and their food was mostly at the table. In retrospective, those were ominous signs but being at a state of excitement I brushed those aside. We ordered "Lamb Shwarma", "Falafel" and an "Arabian Salad". All the dishes arrived within minutes so those were partially pre-cooked.

The lamb was fried in oil and drenched in Soy Sauce. It was cut in spaghetti-like ribbons. It was not slow roasted over coal fire spiced with cumin and cut into large rectangular chunks. As it should have been. I understand the expense involved in this but if you cannot make it, then call it something else. "Spaghetti-like lamb in unidentifiable sauce" would be a good name. It was accompanied by "tzatziki". Which is Greek. As am I. Which was not in my plate. Because tzatziki is a simple mixture of youghourt ( the thick type you can make at home with a NT200 machine that you buy on the net-or you can use sour cream instead) vinegar, dill weed, salt and olive oil. What was in my plate was a white cream with no acidity, salted to the hilt, with tiny green particles. What the particles were I do not know. It came with a warm-microwaved something that may have been a pitta bread, if pitta bread was a soggy lump of wholewheat flour.

The falafel oily and hard (how did they manage this?) may have been visited by chickpeas sometime in the past but the memory was long gone. The hummus was so salty that it may have been extremely salty hummus. I give them that. They came with one (1!!!) ring of old fried onion. On my way out I spotted the other rings resting on a napkin in a vain atempt to drench some of the oil residing in them. Fat chance.

The biggest disappointment however was the salad. Arabian Salad is non-existent. In the same way that there is no country named Arabia. However there is salad, very common in the middle east composed of bulgur, tomato, cucumber, lemon and parsley sometimes with caramelized onions. And let's say that parsley is hard to source, so they had to use coriander. Did they use coriander? Nope. Lemon? No need? Lime instead? Ha! Onions? The salad was old cucumbers and tomatoes drenched in something the owners called "tahini vinaigrette" which contained neither tahini nor any acidic substance.

I would write it off as a simply dreadful meal, if the degree of laziness and misinterpretation of all things middle-eastern was not such. As it stands it is clearly a fraud.

Anonymous said...

I was seriously craving some falafels when I hunted down one of their locations and was extremely disappointed with their falafel pita. There weren't enough falafels and they were too hard, kind of like something that was fried already but fried again to heat it up for my sandwich (I think they did the same thing with my chips). It was not authentic and they they didn't have enough veggies either in the pita. I wish there was a decent falafel/middle eastern place in Taipei.

Carol said...

just an update about the location

I tried looking for the Sababa Pita Bar last weekend at the Breeze Center and could not find it. It wasn't listed in the directory (not in English anyways) and their website only lists 2 locations at Heping and Gong Guan.

pitadude said...

as the proprietor of this brand, i can assure you that there are no microwave ovens in any of our establishments, nor our central kitchen. i can further assure you all that our falafel are fried fresh to order, never refried. now, to respond to some of the quality issues of the past, ia dmit we have had some issues with management over the years, and we lost many of the "details" when we tried to franchise the concept. The two present day Sababa Pita Bars, however, are fully owned by the company, and overseen by your truly, who sincerely cares about the details of food, and the love that goes into each menu item. if you have had a disappointing experience in the past, i urge you to give us another try, and will offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee. you can contact me at greg@foodintaiwan.com to share comments, good or bad. thank you

Anonymous said...

I went to Persian Heaven last weekend at their new location (Nanjing East Rd.) and had a thoroughly enjoyable meal that was reasonably priced - just under 2000 NT for 2 dinner sets and 3 cocktails. The courses and portions were more than my companion and I could comfortably handle, so we felt well satiated. I am no stranger to food from this region, and I can confidently say that for Middle Eastern food in Taipei, this was pretty good. If your budget can afford a step up from Sababa, I would recommend giving this place a try. In fact, the food is quite different from Sababa, so the comparison is not entirely justified.

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