I’m a man and I don’t eat tofu. I’m also considered a “food snob” by friends and relatives and as I have a reputation to uphold, I don’t usually frequent restaurants in hotel lobbies. Well, last week, I both ate tofu and did so in the Hotel Carlton and I liked it. Oh, spank me bad because I liked it good.

Of course I’m referring to our neighborhood Yemenese/Arabic fusion spot, Saha. I’ve lived a very short walk from Saha ever since it opened and I never ever stopped in for a dinner. So, it turns out that last week I got a wake up call as to what an ass I’ve been. My god the food there is good. It’s every reason I pay to eat out because I’m sittin’ there and I’m likin’ it and I have no freakin’ idea how they made it. That is what you pay your dining dollars for, not figs on a plate.

But, enough about food whining and on to the dishes at Saha where evarels and I devoured a good chunk of their very vegetarian-friendly menu. Keep in mind that we’re not vegetarians. Not in the least. I think my ice cream needs to have at least 15% pork fat in it for me to eat it. But there, at Saha, we thoroughly enjoyed the un-meat offer and left yearning for more in the future.

So we ordered the vegetarian prix-fix menus that started out with a soup or a salad. We had the Fatoush, a Middle Eastern classic, and the stuffed avocado salad (pictured above) which was really interesting as the pieces of avocado were slightly fried. They were both tasty and nicely presented, with a good balance of flavors.

Then we moved on to the small plates. We chose the Vegan Knaffe and the Shakshuka. Simply scrumptious. The knaffe (pictured above) was a delicate cake-like dish made of shredded mushrooms in a luscious creamy mix of coconut, chipotle and vegan cream cheese. The Shakshuka, on the other hand, was especially cool as it comes with poached eggs and a bit of spice to it bathed in this delicious red sauce (pictured below).

From there it was the Zahara and a new rice dish that doesn’t appear on their online menu. Both of these were excellent with well-defined, bright spices that didn’t trample each other. The Zahara’s base were wild mushrooms, combined with a few other vegetables that balanced each other nicely both in flavor and texture.

The rice dish was really great as it was this clay pot with various elements to it and what tasted like a healthy dash of cardamon as well as chili. The chef (and I assume owner) came out at the end of the meal to check up and see how that plate went for me as it appears to be very new and he wanted to see what I thought. Call me an ass if you want, but getting to talk to the chef at the end of the meal is something that I always like, especially when it seems like they’re really engaged in the meals.

And at last we had to try one of their desserts, the sweet Knaffe (pictured below) that we split. Damn. A balance of a light cheese with a little bit of saltiness and a little bit of sweetness to it that was excellent and a fantastic finish to the meal together with a traditional Yemeni tea with cardamon and tea.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Saha has a good number of meat dishes as well and you can bet your ass that we’ll be going to try those as well. Needless to say, we were thoroughly impressed by this restaurant and would highly recommend for everyone to come out and enjoy these dishes which are so incredibly unique to the general New American scene that we usually enjoy, but are often unimpressed with. And for those with a fear of dining in a hotel, fear not as the dining room is a nice mix of old SF architecture and Arabic design.