Breakfast of champions

Tanoor Halal Food

The Maklamah, a tender omelet with ground lamb and diced onions, is a delicious breakfast pick-me-up.

The Maklamah, a tender omelet with ground lamb and diced onions, is a delicious breakfast pick-me-up.

Photo by Becky Grunewald

Good for: Hearty breakfast
Notable dishes: Dumpling Soup, On-the-Bone Lamb Shank
Middle Eastern cuisine, Arden-Arcade

Tanoor Halal Food

2212 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95825

(916) 646-6437

There are happily numerous halal restaurants in Sacramento, many of them concentrated in the Arden area, but Tanoor Halal Food is the only one which proclaims its loyalty to the dietary restriction in its name. Just for quick reference: Halal refers to a Muslim dietary standard, as described in the Quran. The major tenets are an avoidance of prohibited foods (pork and alcoholic beverages being two biggies), and adherence to a method of slaughter that includes a quick cut to the carotid artery, and a draining of blood from the carcass. That’s a simplification, but now we are all on the same page and thinking about … meat, which this café does well.

But before we get to the meat, let’s talk about breakfast. That’s right, they serve breakfast, starting every day at 10 a.m. OK, well, honestly when I went at 10:30 a.m. they were still setting up the register and unsure about which breakfast dishes were currently on offer, but after conferring they whipped me up a ravishing Maklamah ($12.99), a tender omelet with ground lamb and diced onion and a hearty bowl of Kouba Sarraie ($10.49), a soup with more ground lamb, encased in soft semolina dumplings in a deep red beet broth laced with cardamom. Add a side of yeasty, house-baked Samoon (football-shaped bread) and luscious, smoky Baba Ganoush ($4.49), comes with aforementioned bread, and you have a perfect breakfast for two.

I can’t remember the last time I got this excited about a breakfast, or anything, really, but we were about to talk about meat … but first, we really have to talk about the décor.

In a field of trendy cafés where all you see is succulents and antlers, it’s very refreshing to see a restaurant break the mold and go with four, loud interior fountains, backlit celestial ceiling panels, and moose-themed salt-and-pepper holders, which, yes, do have antlers, but not in a trendy way. The owners of Tanoor seem to be constantly tinkering with the eccentric décor, and it’s quite charming. The tired, empty strip mall it’s housed in is not so charming, but they’ve created an oasis-like interior.

OK, where were we? Meat, right. But can we talk about the fish? They warn you that the Zubeidi Fish (pomfret, $16.99) will take 15 minutes to prepare, but what is 15 minutes when we are talking about a good square foot or so of crispy-ass fish skin? Also, the skin encases firm, mild white flesh penetrated with citrusy tang, so even better.

And we can’t talk about the meat before I tell you about the amuse-bouche that comes with every meal—a humble cup of yellow lentil soup that is so savory and comforting.

Finally, we get to the meat! Specifically, the Lamb Quzi ($16.99) a lamb shank that comes attached to a Flinstone-esque bone. The lamb was legit falling off the bone, and equally tender and savory was the Alarabi Plate ($14.99): chicken or beef shawarma wrapped in well-grilled lavash and topped with a creamy sauce.

Tanoor Halal Food is a unique and quirky addition to this area’s cluster of Middle Eastern restaurants, and serves a brunch to rival any, no avocado toast necessary.