TOP HAYAT AND TALES

A new Somali restaurant shines against its industrial-wasteland backdrop

Steve is the first to yelp. His sukaar sandwich, a sort of stir-fry of chicken and bell pepper stuffed into a hunk of French bread with tomato, has yielded incontrovertible evidence of a chile presence. This is a happy development. The chile adeptly complements the other seasonings, resulting in as compelling a situation as you can hope for in a sandwich.

Chile is the trend. Amid the bell pepper and tomatoes in my chicken curry (a dish the restaurant also makes with beef), I detect slices of the same fiery orange pepper. Also in evidence are whole cloves and cardamom pods, placing the dish firmly in the exotic-delights category. Except for a huge mound of wonderful curry-scented rice, it doesn't differ appreciably from the filling in Steve's sandwich, which suits me fine.

The beef kebabs are more challenging. Leathery flakes of flank steak the size of sand dollars appear to have been pan-fried rather than skewered and broiled. Though the piquant marinade with bits of sweet tomato is tasty, it leaves a copious oily red residue on the plate. Much more to our liking is a dish of spaghetti, which they are happy to prepare without meat. It looks like a typical red-sauced Italian version, but a melange of provocative, distinctly non-Italian spices and chunky vegetables is an unexpected surprise. Our only complaint is that there is not enough of this appealing sauce for the generous helping of noodles.

Hassan Saleh, owner of Hayat's Restaurant, which shines against the backdrop of steel-gray industry like a swan in a swamp
Jennifer Silverberg
Hassan Saleh, owner of Hayat's Restaurant, which shines against the backdrop of steel-gray industry like a swan in a swamp

Location Info

Map

Saleem's

6501 Delmar Blvd.
University City, MO 63130-4502

Category: Restaurant > Bistro

Region: University City

Café Natasha's Kabob International

3200 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Restaurant > Persian

Region: St. Louis - South Grand

We are also enchanted by a ubiquitous dipping sauce that accompanies nearly everything we order. The color of a light Cajun roux, it adds a sweet heat and new level of intrigue to anything we dunk in it. But stay away from the soup. It's Campbell's Chicken Noodle, or I'll eat my Hayat.

HAYAT'S RESTAURANT, 1301 S. Vandeventer, 535-0533. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tue.-Sun. Entrees: Under $7.

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