Review: Tawla.

Once again whenever a new restaurant opens up in San Francisco, it immediately gains popularity.

Tawla has been open for about four months and it’s already a hotspot in the Mission. Serving up Mediterranean cuisine, Tawla has various cold and hot mezes (essentially tapas) that focus on seasonal produce.

Fresh Bread with Three Labnehs (Maras Pepper and Dried Mint, Za’atar and Olive Oil, and Hazelnut Dukkah) and Muhammad (8.5/10).

We started off with the fresh bread with various dipping sauces. The bread itself was fluffy and warm with a nice char on the outside. The three labnehs (strained Greek yogurt) were tangy and creamy with different toppings. My favorite spread was the muhammara, an incredible flavorful dip made from sweet peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses. Definitely get this.

Summer Figs with Fig Leaf Yogurt, Wildflower Honey, and Hazelnuts (7.5/10).

The sweet summer figs were juicy jewels paired with aromatic wildflower honey, a light fig leaf yogurt, and caramelized hazelnuts. Epitome of summer goodness.

Kibbeh Niyyeh: Lamb Sirloin with Bulgur, Pine Nuts, and Mint (8/10).

Who knew lamb tartare could be so tasty? The meat was tender and seasoned well with bulgur, pine nuts, fresh mint and slivers of raw red onion. The pool of olive oil also added a great rich mouthfeel.

Burnt Octopus with Mango Shatta and Dandelion Greens (8/10).

The octopus was nicely cooked, tender with a nice char on the outside, served with sweet and tart mango and wilted greens. Definitely a winner.

Blistered Eggplant with Cherry Tomatoes (7/10).

While I liked the flavor of the eggplant and tomatoes, the eggplant skin was slightly too burned resulting in an unpleasant texture (slightly brittle). Otherwise I liked the simple vegetarian dish.

Sousa Fritters with Mint and Meyer Lemon Oil (7.5/10).

These squash fritters were fried, light and airy, with an nicely acidic Meyer lemon dipping sauce.

Sweet Corn with Shatta Butter and Serpolet (6.5/10).

The sweet corn had pieces that were completely burned. However I liked the shatta butter (made from middle eastern hot sauce) and serpolet (a type of thyme).

Smoked Lamb Ribs with Freekeh, Olives, Mint, and Pomegranate Molasses (6.5/10).

While the lamb ribs were cooked fine, there was no flavor of the pomegranate molasses glaze whatsoever which I was looking forward to. The accompanying freekeh (ancient type of grain) with olives and mint lacked some seasoning.

Charred Cauliflower with Tahini, Sesame, and Lemon (6.5-7/10).

While I know the cauliflower was supposed to have some char, parts of the cauliflower were burned and almost inedible. However the parts I could eat I did enjoy with the creamy tahini dressing.

Duck Leg with Couscous (6.5/10).

Once again the duck was cooked fine but the entire dish lacked seasoning and flavor. The couscous had little flavor and the sauce was watery without any real substance.

Muhallabia: Milk Pudding with Candied Pistachios, Orange Blossom Water, and Fruit Preserve (8/10).

This dessert was actually bomb. It was like a Mediterranean panna cotta flavored with milk, super silky and smooth, garnished with orange blossom water, candied pistachios that added a necessary crunch, and a jammy fruit preserve.

Chocolate Tahinopita (7/10).

This was an interesting chocolate dessert. It was a chocolate date cake, slightly on the dense side, with a fennel salt that definitely added an unique flavor. It was served with brûléed figs (some were too burnt).

The meal started strong with the cold and hot mezes. Highlights were the fresh bread and spreads, lamb tartare, octopus, and the milk pudding dessert. Both the main dishes lacked seasoning and many of the dishes had components that were overly charred. With a few tweaks here and there, Tawla could be great. Therefore my rating is a 7/10.

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