One of the notable features of Iraqi cuisine that I discovered after Iraqi émigrés started opening restaurants on Hertel Avenue was samoon.
It’s Iraqi pita bread, roughly diamond shaped, and it’s made to be split open and stuffed. Like many fresh-baked Arabic pita breads, it’s best in the first hours after its creation. By the next day, it’s distinctly tough.
I recently met the best samoon I’ve ever had, at Al-Salam Market & Grill (1615 Kenmore Ave., Kenmore, 447-1400). It had a slight crust but was tender all the way through, while retaining enough structural integrity to keep its contents neatly intact.
Al-Salam is a thinly stocked Arab grocery store and hookah supply depot with a food counter and kitchen in the back, and some decent tables up front. Owner Ali Mohammed has bigger plans for a full restaurant menu. Not quite yet, though.
For now, Kenmore area eaters will have to make do with one of the more remarkable sandwiches in town. Mohammed or one of his guys will split a made-that-day samoon open and stuff it with classic Arab fixings for $3.50.
Your choices include kabab (grilled spiced ground beef), beef tikka (grilled beef chunks), beef shawarma (shaved slices of spiced beef), shish taouk (grilled marinated chicken chunks) and falafel (fried chickpea patties). I haven’t tried the tikka, but the others are outstanding examples of the form.
Those sandwiches come with lettuce, tomato, onions and choice of sauce. If you don’t say anything, you’ll get tahini sauce, or tarator, the Ranch dressing of the Arab world. If you ask, you can get toumieh, which is garlic mayonnaise. (Tarator is classic on shawarma and falafel, but I like toumieh with my kabab.)
Ask for some hummus if you’re eating in, and Mohammed might just throw it in. You can enjoy a quartet of sandwiches and a quart of mango juice out of the cooler for the princely sum of $16. Not bad for a bellyful of international culture.
Buffalo Greek Fest.
Greek souvlaki, lamb skewers, saganaki, homemade pastries and more from May 31 to June 2 at the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation (146 W. Utica St.) Admission is $2; 12 and under free. For more information, call 882-9485 or visit buffalogreekfest.org.