by Jean Scherwenka
Roughly 40% of our regular customers are vegetarians, says Nazer Barakat, chef and co-owner of Shahrazad Middle Eastern restaurant at 2847 N. Oakland. A full menu page is dedicated to vegetarian and vegan choices, and this fall Nazer and his brother and business partner Sam, in their fifteenth year at the same location, added a daily vegetarian lunch buffet.
Monday through Friday from 11 am to 3 pm, hungry diners will find eight salad choices, lentil soup, falafel, four hot entrees, and hot pita bread straight from the oven. We always make a rice dish, Egyptian or basmati, and sautéed veggies in a light tomato sauce, says Nazer. Couscous is a favorite here, so we always have the couscous. The other two hot entrees vary from day to day potatoes in tahini sauce, cauliflower in garlic sauce, eggplant in roasted red pepper sauce. We try to keep it interesting with a good variety, he says.
All selections are made from scratch in their kitchen. Sam, the pastry chef, uses no butter, and only one item is made with milk. Nazer takes pride in the freshness of their food. Theres no falafel sitting out there for two hours, he says. I just dont want to sacrifice the quality of my food. Falafel, included in the buffet, must be freshly made as people walk in.
Born in Jerusalem, Nazer lived and cooked Cajun, Creole, and French in New Orleans for fifteen years before moving to Milwaukee a 30-year career in the food industry. He loves to cook. He and his brother prepare food for their customers every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Memorial Day.
Were American Palestinians, so we love to celebrate Thanksgiving, says Nazer. Its a huge thing for us. We make turkey Middle-Eastern style, not like yours with the stuffing. We get a little creative. I have probably 50 to 60 people in my house, at least.
Memorial Day is a day off. Living here for 30 years, we feel we are a part of this country. Its nice to recognize all the people who sacrificed for this country, says Nazer.
Their menu reads: We would like to welcome you to a new kind of Global Warming. The warming of hearts to each other, all around the globe, regardless of color, race, or religion.
If You Go:
Shahrazad, 2847 N. Oakland Ave.,
11-9 Sun.-Thur., 11-10 Fri. & Sat.
Vegetarian Buffet Lunch 11-3, Mon.-Fri. $6.95
Sunday brunch 11-3, vegetarian entrees plus lamb, beef, chicken, fresh fruits, omelet station, $9.95.
Riverwest Currents online edition – October, 2006