A name you may not be familiar with in the Dallas restaurant world is Yaser Khalaf, but chances are you have dined at one of his Dallas restaurants. Currently he owns several including Baboush, Ketchup Burger Bar, and Farnatchi, plus he is opening yet another in Trinity Groves called Souk. We spoke to Yaser yesterday and he mentioned yet another new restaurant that will be walking distance to Baboush that will be a Middle Eastern Bakery and Restaurant. He also formerly owned Medina and LA Gourmet Pizza. A work horse.
Mr. Khalaf is sort of an enigma with an infectious laugh. He runs restaurants, and also designs and builds. He has a keen eye for beauty and that is vibrantly displayed at Baboush where we spent the evening chatting about food and happiness. Early in the evening he pointed at one of the bar stools and said it was made in Pennsylvania with local wood, but the leather and design was made in the Middle East. That is what his restaurants are all about. A bit of Yaser Khalaf’s culture which is this mélange of countries and spice.
For Khalaf, who has traversed the globe, running a restaurant is part of who he is. He explained that he is part Palestinian and part Lebanese. “The Egyptians were given oil and great wealth,” Khalaf continued, “the Lebanese were given talent to sell and hospitality. They can cook.” This is so true, and the food is a melting pot of flavors from across the Middle East. Flavors that Khalaf has captured in his cuisine.
People do come for the food at Baboush, it is well prepared with interesting recipes and plating, but for some, they come to see the owner who spends much of his time running about the restaurant visiting with guests and ensuring their comfort. His staff take cue from this overwhelming hospitality and move about in operatic terms, in unison and with grace.
Khalaf encourages me to sample one his signature cocktails, and after a single sip of the cardamom and roasted pineapple infused vodka I asked who his drink consultant was. Everybody has a drink consultant these days, using one of the master mixologists in Dallas to brighten up where they may otherwise lack. This was not the case at Baboush. Khalaf is perfectly capable of crafting his own cocktails, and uses a panel of friends to ensure he has performed the task properly.
The Cucumber Delight is a wonderful example of Middle Eastern flavors that make well in a cocktail, using muddled cucumber and mint as a base for gin. Smooth and refreshing that pairs well with much of the menu.
The menu strikes a pose that elevates the palate to a warm and comfortable place. From the silky Lebanese hummus to the very different and slightly chunky babaganoush. There are also plenty of small plates to share, because this is the best way to enjoy dining Moroccan style.
One of my favorite dishes last night was the oven baked saffron chermoula glazed sea bass, served with moist slices of potato and a tangy Moroccan tomato sauce. The dish is named for Essaouira, a Moroccan city that borders the Atlantic coast, making a perfect light bite you might encounter in Marrakech.
Baboush has been rocking it for two years now and celebrates each day with music, food and fantastic wines and cocktails. For the late night adventurer you might enjoy the super cooled hookahs available on the patio for an even more festive evening.
Khalaf is about to announce a chef he is importing which will be a deal changer. She will first work a Souk then be his corporate chef. Look for Souk to open October 6th in Trinity Groves.