Mike Sula profiles Sheeba
, one of the Chicago area's few Yemeni restaurants. Brothers Anees and Ismael "Smiley" Aljahmi, natives of Brooklyn, where their father runs a Yemeni place, opened in southwest-suburban Bridgeview back in November. Many Yemeni dishes feature a condiment called hulba
, a fenugreek froth that gives the traditional meat, fish, and vegetable stews texture and buoyancy. Disks of naanlike flatbread are freshly baked on the interior wall of a tanoor, a clay oven that is also used to cook fish. Lamb is prominent on the menu: broiled chops, sauteed liver or kidney, roasted on the bone, or minced and sauteed with tomatoes, onions, and spices. The brothers' "cultural platters" include mushakal
, mixed vegetables with spices, and fattah
, sliced, sauced pieces of the bread topped with lamb gravy, hulba
, and zhug
, a salsalike tomato condiment with chile, garlic, and cilantro. There's a slide show of the restaurant here
In Key Ingredient Iliana Regan of the underground restaurant One Sister improvised a panna cotta with dried limes, a Middle Eastern ingredient used more commonly in soups, stews, and tagines. To give it some crunch she served molded half-spheres of it on top of dried marble rye coated with dark chocolate. Next up is Craig Schoettler of the Aviary, working with dried bamboo fungus. It grows on "this mushroom that sometimes people call false morel, which is a stinkhorn," said Regan, who's also a forager. "They're ugly and disgusting looking . . . it has an orange hue to it and they're covered in, like, a brown muddy slime."
The listings have a few recommended representatives of more-familiar Middle Eastern cuisines: Albany Park's Al-Khaymeih and Semiramis, Rogers Park's Masouleh, and Bridgeport's Zaytune Mediterranean Grill.