It’s no secret that Tempe is home to some of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Arizona. A quick drive down Apache Boulevard makes this abundantly clear. And though it can be easy to mistake one Middle Eastern restaurant for another, a new-ish restaurant is making itself stand out in the crowded Tempe scene.
Oasis Bakery and Cuisine opened in April with the intent of giving the Valley authentic Yemeni cuisine. Though Yemeni cuisine shares similarities with other Middle Eastern cuisines — think slow-cooked meats cooked in rich spices and served with rice and vegetables — it is certainly not your same old, same old Middle Eastern restaurant. Historically, Ethiopian and Turkish cuisine have had the most influence on Yemeni food, and you'll see that influence in the addition of spices from these neighboring lands to classic Yemeni dishes. However, that doesn't mean this cuisine isn't unique. Yemeni food is still rooted in its own origins. Saltah, a spicy stew of meat and vegetables, is the national dish and a perfect representation of the regions warm and deeply spicy cuisine. And with the right ratio of cumin to coriander to chili powder, Oasis manages to bring a taste of Yemen to the Valley.
Apart from offering uniquely regional lunch and dinner dishes, Oasis also opens its doors for breakfast with options that redefine the term continental breakfast in the best possible way.
Though we made a visit to Oasis for lunch on a weekday, the novelty of hearty Yemeni style breakfast dishes would not escape us. Thankfully, the kitchen was happy to offer the full menu, so we went ahead and started with an order of shakshouka.
Shakshouka is an egg dish with many variations, depending on the region in which it's being served. For the Yemeni-style shakshouka at Oasis, eggs are scrambled (rather than poached) and mixed with tomatoes, onions, and green chiles. The flavor and texture nearly reminded us of the ricotta filling of lasagna because it was so light and delicate. The dish came with a side of yemeni flatbread in which to pile the shakshouka.
Our waitress spoke very highly of the fish, proclaiming it her personal favorite, so we took the bait. The whole fish, a golden pompano, was opened down the middle like a book and smothered in a thick red sauce. We couldn’t be happier to see the pompano, a fish known for its buttery texture and large bones, making for quick and easy eating. The thick red sauce was likely tomato paste seasoned with spices and a touch of chile for an almost imperceptible heat. On a more delicate fish, this sauce might have overwhelmed, but with the golden pompano it made the perfect companion.
Our final dish was the fahseh meat, a lamb stew that Oasis serves in a boiling, hot stone pot. The broth is rich red and still bubbling with chunks of lamb inside. A heaping portion of rice accompanies the dish, which our waitress was happy to show us the proper way to eat: you start by forming a hole in the middle of the rice platter before scooping some lamb and hot broth into the space to let it cool. Next, mix in some rice to soak up all the goodness and then take a bite. The meat was fork tender and easily shredded when mixed with the rice, and while the broth is mellow and adds flavor, but it really is all about the lamb in this dish.
We loved the abundant proportions at Oasis Bakery and Cuisine in Tempe — but the food wasn't the only thing that delivered. The restaurant staff was also welcoming and helpful, making us feel immediately at home. Between the service and food, we'll definitely be back to explore more of the Yemeni cuisine this Tempe restaurant has to offer.
Oasis Bakery and Cuisine
1639 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe
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