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February 18, 2009 > Restaurant Review: Habibi Restaurant

Restaurant Review: Habibi Restaurant

By J.D. Wolfe

When I agreed to come on board as a reporter reviewing restaurants I thought this was going to be a snap. Go eat at a place and tell everyone what you eat and whether or not it was good, or so I thought!

After dining at Habibi I knew I had a dilemma. What do you do when you go to a restaurant where you honestly have no pre-conceived ideas about it, and you instantly know you want to go back?

I have to tell you that Habibi is such a place. It is located in the building behind Burger King in the Safeway complex at the Fremont Boulevard / Washington Boulevard Intersection. There is plenty of parking and a short walk to the door.

The first impression you have is of the entire frontage. It is a wall of glass, which gives the impression of open space in the dining area. The floor is a very shiny tile and the table settings are simple and adequate. You are comfortable.

I was greeted and seated immediately when I walked in, but not just by anyone. Samir and his wife, Shams, are on site at all times and Shams greets you. Samir makes sure everyone is being properly served. I had a chance to speak to Samir before I left and he made me feel like I was one of his longest and dearest friends. He and his wife truly care and make sure you enjoy their restaurant. This couple came to America from Lebanon many years ago and if you take the time to visit with Samir and Shams, you really come to appreciate the great opportunities this country offers.

I believe they see Habibi as an extension of their home because they view a dining experience as more than just eating out. You will understand.

When I sat down I ordered hot tea and while sipping the steaming beverage, looked over the menu. If you are not sure of the many Lebanese dishes on the menu but I would highly recommend the Falafel Appetizer and the Combination Dinner. Trust me, you cannot eat it all; take the rest home and eat it later. You have more important things to do - like order dessert. All I can say is order the Baklava. It is fantastic because it is not overly sweet so all you taste is the honey. The Baklava at Habibi's is perfect! If you still have space, ask Shams for her special homemade dessert.

Everything is homemade by Shams and she is very meticulous. It shows in the quality of the meal. It is as fresh as you could hope to have!

The Falafel Appetizer arrived with pita bread, fresh cut tomatoes and lettuce accompanied by a special sauce. My only regret is that I wish I had asked for more sauce. That will be requested at the next visit.

The Combination Dinner comes with fresh lamb, one beef and one chicken kebob and they are all very well prepared. The meats come with special grain rice and other goodies like garlic mayonnaise and fresh hummus. Together they enhance the flavors of the meats. It was so good that I made sure to chew each bite as much as I could so that every last morsel of flavor was gone before I swallowed. It is that delicious!

The only bad part for me was when I finished. I seriously considered ordering a plate to take home but stopped short. I did take the leftovers home and the next day my wife, who was not able to join me, devoured it for lunch.

Before I left, I checked out the kitchen and restroom, which to me are two of the most important places in any restaurant. The stainless steel equipment in the kitchen sparkles and I believe that if our local hospital needed a back-up operating room, this would be the place. It is that clean. To get to the restroom you walk by the kitchen, so take a look for yourself.

Overall, I give Habibi's very high marks. You have to go soon!

Habibi Restaurant
3964 Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 659-9600

Reviewed January 27, 2009

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