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Tawla Aims to Fill the City's Eastern Mediterranean Gap

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It's going to be more than falafel.

The lower end of Valencia Street continues to gain momentum, with the upcoming addition of Tawla, an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant. And though the restaurant is leaping into a somewhat saturated Mission dining scene, it's also attempting to fill a gap in that style of cuisine— despite well-known options like Kokkari Estiatorio and La Mediterranee, those flavors haven't yet gained a foothold in the midst of an evolving dining scene.

The restaurant is the first from owner Azhar Hashem, a native of Jordan, who plans to showcase the homey food of the Mediterranean, with influences from Greece, Turkey, the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Jordan) and Iran. Chef Joseph Magidow (Delfina) is planning a menu filled with mezzes like muhammara, and large dishes for sharing like leg of lamb. Magidow will focus on "sophisticated home cooking," so diners can expect to see a wider variety of dishes than the falafel and kebabs that are often synonymous with Mediterranean food. It also sounds like there will be an insane bread basket, including a "pita-baguette hybrid." And The Bon Vivants (the busiest cocktailers in town) will head up the beverage program, pulling in lots of spices, herbs and flowers to reflect the flavors of the cuisine, many of which will also be low ABV. (Think cardamom, za'atar and orange blossom water.) There will also be wine, beer, juices and teas.

As for the 2,400-square-foot space, Charles Hemminger is all over it, along wth design firm Make Retail. Apparently there will be a living wall as well as a back patio where diners can wait on their tables and play backgammon (bringing it full circle, tawla means backgammon in Arabic). And save your complaints about the tightly-packed tables— the aesthetic is deliberate, mimicking the cozy cafés found abroad.

Tawla is currently under construction at 206 Valencia St. (directly across from Burma Love), and is slated for a spring opening. Stay tuned on more details.

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