When it come to delicious Mediterranean cuisine I set my sights recently on a spot that has been around for 10 years in Richardson, Jasmine Cafe. I had been curious about the restaurant that I have passed many, many times in the past, particularly eye-balling the hookah lounge next door which is part of the same business. The lounge always seemed very crowded (and it is), and the restaurant equally as busy.
Owned by brother Salmen and and Loai Nameer, they both fell into the restaurant business by pure happenstance. The Nameer’s lived in Jerusalem, each attending university. Salmen decided to pick up shifts at a restaurant while working on his electronic engineering degree. Although he did graduate, his heart was really in restaurants. He enjoyed the people aspect, and he was working at one of the more famous restaurants which has been serving continuously for over 65 years; a place called Philadelphia which serves tasty Palestinian cuisine. Brother Loai soon followed in the footsteps, working his way up the ranks, beginning as dishwasher, and fell in love with his eventual post as chef.
Brother Salmen eventually made his way to the States to get his masters in engineering, and settled in Dallas working at more restaurants in the area, including Afrah in Richardson. Brother Loai followed 3 years ago when Jasmine was offered up for sale. The restaurant had lackluster sales, but it was a golden opportunity for the pair to run their own business, thus fulfilling a dream. They were able to make changes to the menu, offering the same cuisine and recipes you would find when visiting the Jerusalem restaurant. No Americanization here.
The key to offering this type of food, Salmen assures me, is to keep it fresh. “Many restaurants will make their hummus every three days, we make it all day to keep the flavors fresh,” said Salmen. This is true of all their menu items.
To grab a great taste of their offerings, it might be suggested to start with their luncheon buffet, which is glorious and filled with many meats and vegetables cooked fresh and served continuously until late afternoon. You will find most everything from their regular menu, plus more such as homestyle dishes, grilled meats and fish, a bounty of vegetables and dips, and items they decide might taste good that day.
The bread offering is not your typical cold pita cut triangularly. Instead they use a special recipe, implementing an Indian tandoor oven for this amazing crisp slab of fresh and hot to order basket of deliciousness. If for no other reason, come for that bread. It is an excellent vehicle for scooping up their baba ghanoush, or to spread thickly their house-made labni.
A few other starter items include their fried haloumi cheese that tastes like a slab of butter, which is the inherent flavor of the cheese that is given a swift saute in olive oil. The grape leaves (I am told they are not dolmas since there is no meat and is a vegetarian) are tiny and stuffed with rice and chunks of tomato, then served warm. These are two bite-sized, which I have always known that the smaller ones are the very best. The kibbe is fried, moist and delicious. The very best I have ever sampled. Same for the falafal, which often can often be dry and flavorless. Not the case at Jasmine Cafe.
The menu is extensive with many items you might not normally find at such a restaurant, such as the fish dishes, and even a kidney and liver treatment. For a robust snapshot of the offerings, we suggest the buffet (8.99) during the day, or the combination plate (serves 2-3 hungry people) for a mere 39.99. For a larger group they have a family feast that feeds up to six people for 74.99. Do the math, it’s a bargain. And for both of these all-inclusive meals the variety of dishes more than fill the table. In fact, you will be supplied with a side table to accommodate all you will be sent.
Be sure to sample the grilled meats, such as the lamb, and kabobs. The grilled chicken is spiced well and is served with a ramekin of homemade aioli for added flavor.
To complete the meal, treat yourself to their Nabilsi Knafa, which is an unusual dish of a soft, sweet cheese layer with shredded dough strips, sauteed and drizzled with a rose water syrup then sprinkled with pistachios. The Levantine cheese used is difficult to find in the States, and is sourced from Jerusalem. The dish is a bit sweet, and probably best shared, but is super addictive and best cut with a cup of the very powerful Turkish coffee, which can be purchased by the pot. Don’t forget the hookahs!
For a little holiday fun we are offering several lunch buffets good for two people. Make a comment below and we will pick out a few names at random. We will also give away a few at craveDFW’s facebook page, so be sure to add us there; the same for our Twitter account @crave_dfw.
Jasmine Cafe is located at 107 East Main in Richardson.