Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gimme Your Kibbeh

Sittoo Kibbeh
I love kibbeh. How about you?

Driving south along Ridge Road in Parma, it is difficult to miss Sittoo's sign. Perhaps it is the simplicity that makes it so striking. Along the edge of their 6-space parking lot, the maroon sign stands at eye level with "Sittoo's" printed in simple white lettering with a minimalist pen illustration of a stereotypical grandmother - bespectacled, utilizing the "oo" in Sittoo's, hair tied in a bun, and a smile. "Pita & Salads" is subtitled in a black.

For the ~3 years Sittoo's has been at this location, we assumed it was a hippie-health food mart with alfalfa sprout filled tofurkey pita pocket sandwiches based on the "Pita & Salads" advertised on their sign. Grassy pockets aren't a bad thing (no sandwich is complete without alfalfa sprouts!), but that description wasn't exactly enticing Bug to veer off course and walk through those doors.

Our friend, Goksga, mentioned one day that Sittoo's is owned by the same family who owns Aladdin's Bakery, a local Middle Eastern bakery, and Aladdin's Eatery, a local fast casual chain of restaurants serving Middle Eastern fare. My ears perked up when I heard this news.

Bug overcame the mindset that Middle Eastern cuisine consisted of loathsome chickpeas and couscous from his dining experiences the past year and a half at Nate's Deli and attending the Middle Eastern Festival.

After going through the double glass doors of the former pizza joint, you are met by a parlor table displaying a menu with descriptions of each dish in large print. The brown hues give the place a comfortable and classier look.

A few feet beyond the table is a counter similar in set-up to a fast food restaurant with a high stainless counter separating the cashier and the kitchen. Soda and tea dispensers stand to the right. On the counter to the left of the cashier is a tower of cookies and baklava. The place is immaculately kept, not stained with the stench of old grease, rubbish, and soda syrup.

As I ordered our food, I poked around the baklava display and shamelessly snagged a container ($2.95) with the most crushed pistachios, as a snack while we waited for our food to be delivered to our table.

Sittoo Baklava
I've never met a baklava I didn't like

The one item that is a constant, the four times we have eaten there, is their kibbeh ($3.95). Fried in peanut oil, the bulgar wheat and spiced beef parcel is filled with spiced ground beef, onions, and pine nuts, and served with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and yogurt.

Kibbeh is often made with ground lamb and complements hummus and harissa-spiked yogurt.

Sittoo Kibbeh open
I don't now what you are going to eat

Bug is a big fan of kofta since his visit to Istanbul Turkish Grill. His order of spicy kafta sandwich ($5.99) was prepared with finely ground beef formed and grilled on a skewer then nestled in a pita with onions, tomatoes, hot sauce, pickles, and lemon tahini dressing.

No words were uttered by him, at least intelligibly, as he savored the first half of his wrap. The portion may appear small, but the kofta are generously sized and pitas have a way of filling the belly.

Sittoo Beef Kofta2

When I caught a glimpse of my platter, Sittoo's Combo ($6.99), my first thoughts as the rice-noodle pilaf moved toward me was Rice-a-Roni and disappointment. Skimming my fork over the grains, I took a small bite and found the pilaf to be lightly salted and nutty, firm but not undercooked. Hooray!

I love grilled food, so it should come as no surprise that a well prepared dish of grilled meats would be nothing short of fantastic. The chicken was perfectly charred (not burnt!) and moist, the beef was peppery, moist, and tender, and the kofta was spiced and firm.

Sittoo Combo
Sittoo's Combo

As I broke the crispy falafel in half, I was surprised to discover a green-yellow mashed filling. In my previous experiences, the filling has always been grey-brown. I must have eaten it at the wrong places. As I peruse through the photographs on Google images, there are numerous pictures displaying a green-yellow filling.

To complete the ensemble, crunchy salad greens, cucumbers, and peppers with tomatoes, parsley, and a citrus dressing gave the seriously delicious grilled spiced meats, curried falafel, and pilaf some bounce.

Our visits to Sitto's and Istanbul Turkish Grill have ignited a culinary spark in Bug to make Levantine cuisine. Having already made hummus several times, kibbeh and kofta won't be far behind.

- Cassaendra

5870 Ridge Rd
Parma, OH 44129-3643
Tel: (440) 885-2525

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