Like staring at a Jackson Pollock or trying to fold a fitted sheet, dinner at Beit Rima can sometimes feel like controlled chaos. This Arab restaurant in Duboce Triangle is slightly too loud and a little discombobulated, but we’re always excited to come back. The food is excellent, and everything you experience here - from the servers constantly whizzing around with baskets of pita to the noise level that you’d find at a small concert venue - makes it a fun place to go when your life has been a little too quiet lately.
Beit Rima is located in an old burger spot on Church St., with its kitchen in the middle of the long, skinny room a few feet below sidewalk level. It’s constantly busy - there are always people outside waiting for their names to be called - and gets warmer as the night goes on and more groups and dates filter in to share things like mezze platters and whole-fried branzinos. Eating here feels like you’re in a brightened, updated ’60s club - the walls are covered in painted flowers and pop-art prints like the Mona Lisa wearing a burqa.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
The menu is a mix of Lebanese, Palestinian, and Jordanian dishes, and the mezze section is where you should spend most of your time. Each of the small plates hovers around $10 per and is large enough to split with three other people - you’ll constantly be shuffling things around to make room for more plates and to get your favorites a little closer to your side of the table. Like the buttery mashed fava bean ful with a relish of lemon and chilies that you’ll want to spread on every sandwich for the foreseeable future, and crispy, garlicky batata harra (spiced potatoes) that are better than any fries you’ll get at Oracle Park.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
If you want to try a lot of things, the mezze sampler comes with a bunch of standards like hummus, labneh, and muhammara that you’ll want to dip their hand-kneaded bread into on repeat. This pita is hot, crispy, covered in sumac and zaa’tar, and the first thing that comes to mind whenever someone asks us about this place. And if you foresee your table tearing through all of the mezze too quickly, order that branzino you saw when you walked in. The skin is super crispy, the meat is tender, and the mint and red onion salad that comes on top brightens the whole thing up - it’s fantastic.
Like a Pollock painting, some jagged lines stick out more than others when you’re at Beit Rima. One of the five things you ordered might not show up until you remind one of the servers when they’re racing in or out of the kitchen. Or someone might forget to bring you forks and spoons before the majority of your food arrives at the table. But there’s a stack of plates next to the register and missing dishes appear soon after you get someone’s attention. Once small things like that get taken care of, then you’re free to enjoy the chaos. And get back to debating the best way to fold a fitted sheet.
When ordered individually, each of the dips comes in a large-enough portion for three to four people to share. But if you get this instead, it’s a good way to try a lot of things without getting filled up immediately. The sampler comes with falafel, baba ganoush, labneh, hummus, muhammara, and pickles, and it’s all really good, but the muhammara is the best.
This mezze spread is made with roasted red peppers, walnuts, and almonds. It’s sweet and slightly spicy, and we wish we could buy tubs of it in bulk at Costco.
The hummus here is great on its own, and while the spiced beef on top is solid, we’d rather save room for some other things. Stick with the hummus in the mezze sampler.
Samir’s Hand-Kneaded Bread
This bread is crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and covered in za’atar, sumac, and olive oil. If it was complimentary, we’d fill up on this before anything else arrived at the table. But that would be a mistake because it goes so well with everything on the menu.
If you put these spicy fried potatoes on a string and dangled them in front of us, we’d chase them around all day - they’re that good.
Chicken Shish Tawook Plate
This is one of the only things on the menu that could be ordered as a stand-alone meal. The chicken is tender and charred, but the real winner here is the rice with roasted vegetables in it. If we were getting takeout to eat on our couch at home, this is what we’d order.
Whole Fried Branzino
The skin is crispy and the meat itself is nice and tender, but what takes this far over the top is the salad of mint and onion it comes with, as well as the garlicky hot sauce you’ll wish you could’ve put on everything that was brought out beforehand. If you want to get an entree to split with someone, go with the branzino.
Gazan Braised Lamb Shank
This lamb is so tender that it might fall off the bone by just looking at it, and the pearl couscous goes well with the dish, but we wish the broth it came in was more flavorful.