When we first walked into Sababa and I opened up the menu, I was at first skeptical with what I saw. The restaurant is categorized under Mediterranean yet the menu displayed an assortment of items from all over the world.
The outside seating is nice, you can choose from regular tables or sofa seating for a more relaxed feel. The inside lounge area is great for cocktails and bites both around the bar or at the bar tables.
I started out ordering some things for the table which I recognized as authentic. Flatbreads with dip ($8) was exactly what I had hoped for. Grilled flatbread is served with three dips: roasted pepper almond, hummus, and roasted eggplant dip. I loved all three, especially the eggplant, but then again, I am a huge eggplant fan. The roasted pepper almond makes great use of one of the healthiest nuts around.
I love Falafel ($7.50) and the ones here are light and very tasty. They arrived looking on the dark side, but the seasonings include things like paprika which darkens when fried, but when you cut into them, reveal the beautiful colors of chickpeas and herbs. The tahini dipping sauce was delicious accompanied by a simple salad of tomatoes drizzled with balsamic.
Being an eggplant fiend, I especially loved Grilled Eggplant ($8), an eggplant roasted whole and then opened up and topped with tahini, roasted red peppers and tomatoes, served with pita chips. I loved it!!
As we were eating our meal, owner Sagi stopped by our table to welcome us and tell us a bit about his restaurant. It was then everything became clear. He explained his vision for his restaurant of wanting to bring the flavors of his homeland — Israel — and incorporate them into the items everyone is familiar with. I told him I thought the menu looked confused, but now it made sense.
So with that in mind, we went ahead and tried some items my son wanted but I didn’t feel were Mediterranean. Calamari ($9) is tossed in a blend of spices which you will immediately recognize if you are familiar with middle eastern or Mediterranean cuisine. The accompanying dip is made of harissa (a Tunisian chili sauce), lemon and artichokes.
“Nachos” ($9.50) is very unique. Instead of tortilla, pita chips are used, and they are topped with goat cheese, roasted red bell peppers, Kalamata olives, hummus, drizzled with a tahini vinaigrette. The fresh spinach adds both color and freshness to this healthier version of the Mexican favorite.
My son wanted Seared Tuna ($18) and the one here is really interesting. Crusted with za’atar, a very popular Mediterranean/Middle Eastern spice mix, the ahi tuna is seared and served with a mint pesto and lemon aioli dip. Harissa mashed potatoes were just okay, but I loved the simple sababa salad of cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes and mint with olive oil and lemon juice. I’m totally making this at home!!
I absolutely loved the Moroccan ($19), an 8oz piece of salmon pan seared in a vibrant Moroccan sauce with a tomato and red pepper base and served with basmati rice. I brought the leftovers home and after warming up the next day, it was even better and the salmon surprisingly retained its moisture.
Lastly, Shakshuka ($12), a breakfast item which reminds me of poached eggs over ratatouille. Zucchini, tomatoes, roasted bell peppers in a beautiful tomato sauce topped with eggs are baked and when the runny yolks are mixed into the vegetables, creates a creamy delicious dish even vegetarians can enjoy.
Those of you with a sweet tooth, get the Apple Baklava ($7). Unlike traditional baklava, it wasn’t very sweet, which completely appealed to me. Apples raisins and walnuts are encased in phyllo dough and baked. Served with a honey tahini sauce, I would totally eat this again!
I absolutely loved this place and so did my dining companions. In fact, my son wanted to go back again and I wish I was able to when he asked, but it was a tad too far for me on a weeknight. Those of you living in the area or on the weekends are traveling to Long Beach should check Sababa out!
Sababa Restaurant & Lounge
6527 E Pacific Coast Highway
Long Beach, CA 90803