My mother and I stopped by the very cleverly-named Arabesque in Boulder last week for a late lunch. Arabesque is a tiny little eatery tucked into a brick building on Walnut Street. My mother has eaten there a couple times before and recommended it after we'd finished an errand downtown.
Arabesque is apparently a family-run operation that focuses on homemade Middle Eastern staples. The restaurant is one tiny room, which is filled to capacity with tables and a small waiting area. The buzz of the kitchen is in full view of the dining area, and there's a steady stream of customers coming in and out to purchase to-go items from a display case. In other words, it's a quintessential ethnic dining experience in Boulder.
It was an unseasonably warm April day when we visited, with all the patio seats taken. We were able to grab the last available table indoors. Although it was well into the afternoon, they were still serving breakfast foods like omelets and quiche, as well as the normal lunch dishes, which included sampler platters and shawarma.
Once seated, it took quite some time before our waiter brought us water and took our orders. After seeing the large portions on other diners' plates, I decided for just the Spinach Pie and carrot juice. My mother ordered her usual, the Mid-East Sampler with Beef.
Another long expanse of time passed without service, and without my carrot juice. Our waiter set a large plate of something we hadn't ordered in front of us and then carried it away with a very confused look when we told him he had the wrong table.
Finally our food arrived. I had expected the "Spinach Pie" to basically be Spanikopita, but it was actually a folded dough pocket containing a Spanikopita-like spinach mixture. I enjoyed the flavor, but I was disappointed by how much dough and how little spinach filling the pie contained. My mom's sampler dish looked delicious, containing a pita pocket, hummus, tabouli, dolmates, baba ghanouj, and beef shawarma. I took plenty of nibbles off her plate and enjoyed it all. The hummus, which was served in a very authentic style with a drizzle of olive oil and gherkins for dipping, was my favorite item from the sampler.
Two reminders to the waitstaff later and nearly finished with my meal, I finally received my carrot juice. Despite the excessive wait, it was really, really good, with a strong, sweet carrot flavor.
After watching a few other customers enjoying baklava and chocolate mousse, my mother and I opted to split a Triple Chocolate Brownie. I have a hard time believing anything about that giant block of chocolate heaven was authentically Mediterranean or Middle Eastern, but it was good. The brownie was thick and dense, like a heavy cake, with rich chocolate chips and an ample drizzle of chocolate sauce on top. I was in hyperglycemic heaven.
It took yet more fumbling with the waitstaff to get our bill paid before we were out the door. Despite the frustrations with poor service and my disappointment with the Spinach Pie, the sampler platter and brownie were outstanding. I hope the service is better at my next visit.
Pros: Great place for authentic, homemade Middle Eastern food. Get dessert.
Cons: Poor service, can be cramped at peak hours