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November 23, 2010 at 8:33 AM

Harissa joins club Med, latest to fill Ravenna restaurant spot

Corrected version

“Is it spicy?” asked the gentleman seated in the booth behind mine at Harissa — the new Mediterranean restaurant in Ravenna. “No,” said the perkiest waiter I’ve met in months, explaining that chef/owner Walid Alabtan’s shorba — prepared with a litany of legumes and vegetables and perfect for a cold day — will be certain to take the chill off. Having already spooned into my bowlful of Alabtan’s Lebanese soup, I came awfully close to turning around and saying, “Try it, you’ll like it!” But my mouth was stuffed with fabulous flatbread served hot from the tandoor oven, a holdout from the days when this revolving-door restaurant opened as the Seattle-side version of Kirkland’s Indian stalwart, Shamiana.

If I lived in Ravenna, I’d add Harissa, at 2255 N.E. 65th Street, to my list of neighborhood go-to joints.

The number of restaurants that have called this address home is so long, I can’t remember half of them. However, if you’ve been around as long as I have, you might recall this as the site of the original Santa Fe Cafe, closed a decade ago after 20 years in business. Until last month Ravenna neighbors knew this as Himalayan Kitchen — which underwent a quick turn-around after Alabtan scooped up the lease, changed up the menu and rapidly reopened as Harissa.

If the name Walid Alabtan rings a bell, perhaps you’ve seen him tooling around Seattle in his Go Go Ice Cream truck — sketched in the sunshine last summer by “Seattle Sketcher” (and Seattle Times blogger) Gabriel Campanaria. No stranger to the kitchen, Alabtan has worked in a wide world of restaurants, including a long stint at Ephesus, the Turkish restaurant in West Seattle — as he explained to the folks at the Ravenna Blog.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for — Mediterranean food?

[drawing by Seattle Sketcher Gabriel Campanario.

I enjoyed a quiet dinner here last week, and look forward to returning for lunch, when prices are substantially reduced. Not that there’s anything out of line on the dinner menu, where mezeh (served with naan-like “pita bread”) include Med-spread classics like hummus, tzatziki and baba ghanouj, and kebabs arrive on a skewer over rice pilaf, accompanied by a generously apportioned side-salad (a Caesar, or my choice, the Lebanese house salad festooned with feta and a vibrant vinaigrette). Harissa is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. till 10:30 p.m.

The dinner menu at Harissa.

And while I’m on the subject of Ravenna restaurants, has anybody been to the newish Indian place, Bernu’s?

Information in this post, originally published earlier today, has been changed. The address for Harissa has been corrected.

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