“How would you like your tenderloin to be cooked?” “
Now, there’s a question you wouldn’t expect to hear at the counter of a gyroscope store. Especially when the filet mignon comes to you in a Styrofoam container with plastic forks and a water bottle for the road.
But Mohammad Menassera is a detailed waiter, though that mostly means managing take out boxes from the kitchen of the Hana House Middle Eastern restaurant at the counter, which is filled with Arabic-language leaflets and business cards.
On a recent day, Menassera teamed up with his uncle Mustafa Manassra, who opened the restaurant in a low-key mall on Northern Avenue near I-17. Mustafa is originally from the West Bank of Jerusalem and has lived in the United States since the early 1990s, the last 17 years in Arizona.
It opened its first restaurant in January in the former Mexican restaurant Los Compadres, which had been in business for 34 years until it closed in 2019. The large dining room is the focal point of an eclectic mall filled with a Jamaican restaurant, animal ophthalmologist and liquor store. To make his space special, Mustafa decorated the marquee with a photo of his first daughter Hana wearing a traditional Middle Eastern dress with a cloth headdress and gold coins.
Unlike his nephew, who left a managerial position at Nordstrom to come and work with his family, Mustafa is a pragmatic guy. But he lit up when he started talking about Middle Eastern cuisine.
What to expect at Hana House
Even in its early days, you can tell Hana House holds itself to a high standard of presentation and quality, with colorful platters of vegetables and spicy meats with brilliant dustings of paprika and sumac.
Hana mostly sticks to standard Middle Eastern dishes like gyroscope and shawarma which play well in a take out box. You may have noticed the restaurant on several of the popular delivery apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Postmates.
But the magnificent kebabs, grilled over a wood fire and cooked to order, a rare medium juiciness, are the star. Even if your side dishes are basmati rice rather than mashed potatoes, it still feels like splurging in a steakhouse.
Interestingly, Hana House has an extensive appetizer menu, with spinach pies and minced beef croquettes and four types of hummus, including one called fattet which is served with shredded pita bread mixed with the spread. You could think of it as a cousin to the famous fattoush salad, which also has pieces of broken pita bread mixed with vegetables. Both dishes are part of the same fattat family, which refers to broken pieces of flatbread.
Hana House also offers rare Levantine and Egyptian dishes which are not on the menu but which you can call ahead. Their Instagram page features a photo of the huge pile of rice called makloobah, which is cooked upside down in layers with fried vegetables, then scattered around in a decadent assortment. Google’s commercial page features a mouth-watering plate of koshari, a popular midnight street food in Egypt that is basically macaroni with performance enhancing drugs, mixed with a burst of rice and lentils and thick slices of fried onions. .
It’s important to note that Hana House is also a hookah bar and has some interesting flavors like Safari Melon Dew, Irish Peach, and Samba Lemon Mint. But since it is also a community center, Hana hosted a popular Iftar buffet during the month of Ramadan, when observers broke their fast around plates of hummus and tabbouleh and the aforementioned makloobah. Mustafa said that in the future he would like to keep the Middle Eastern buffet during the daily lunch service.
Based on my visit, I recommend for now to drop in for take out rather than having dinner there. You will probably have a better experience, as the empty dining room was a bit dingy and the waiters weren’t wearing masks. My visit this week turned into an impromptu picnic in the parking lot, with take-out containers were spread out on the leafy grass of a hilly mound that straddled 23rd Avenue. We’ll just call it eating al fresco.
Here’s what to order when you go
Here’s what I suggest you get: The Hana Special Mix for 1. (There is also a larger combo plate for two with twice the meat.) At $ 19.99, this plate comes with full skewers. and a half of each of the three skewers offered by Hana.
First there is the chicken, chunks of fat that have been rubbed into yogurt and lemon juice with a few marks of fiery charcoal from the grill. They’re not complete until you dip them in the creamy garlic sauce they give you on the side. Wow, is that zingy thing. And zang.
The plate also comes with a skewer of kofta, the Middle Eastern meatloaf kebab that tastes like a spicy burger without the bread. Their version is made with ground beef and lamb for extra tenderness, and shaped into a long, dense patty that you prick with your fork or tear with your fingers.
Last but not least, the top-of-the-range kebab, the filet mignon, which has been cut into bite-sized pieces sprinkled with parsley. I was supposed to take the leftovers home to my family, but struggled not to eat all the juicy bits on my own. The kebabs were accompanied by a clever side salad and placed on a delicate bed of basmati rice, the grains so long and tender they reminded me of orzo pasta.
Since they take up so much of the menu, my meal consisted mostly of appetizers: a box of crispy falafel, with little thumb prints in the middle like a chickpea cracker; soft flatbread meat pies called sfeeha that have been rubbed with ground beef and pine nuts; and my favorite, the hummus and beef shawarma appetizer, which was stained red with sumac and glistening with olive oil that piled on the sides of the takeout box.
The shawarma itself was thinly sliced, which almost gave the beef the texture of little sausage strands being fried in a skillet. But mixed with the chunky hummus, it was pure comfort. The kind of food you snatch out of the fridge later that night, which I did, using the meaty pastries to soak up the hummus. The perfect bite.
Hana house restaurant
Or: 2350 W. Northern Ave., Phoenix.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Price: Appetizers $ 4.99 – $ 19.99; soups and salads $ 4.99- $ 8.99; entrees $ 14.99 – $ 38.99.
Details: 602-354-3416, hanahouserestaurant.com.