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New Middle Eastern eatery: Shaloha


Above: Shaloha's housemade pita bread

The dishes at Shaloha accommodate the pita bread, not the other way around. Owner Sage Sisko moved to Hawaii five years ago from Israel and when he first tasted the water here, it reminded him of water in Israel 20 or 30 years ago. He also observed that the weather doesn't change dramatically in Hawaii (excepting the past month or so). These two factors he says are "the ground base for making really, really good pita bread." He decided he was going to introduce pita bread to Hawaii.

And so, as soon as you walk into this tiny eatery in a Waialae Ave. strip mall, you're given a sample of the fresh pita. They are thick and fluffy with a bit of chew, completely unlike the cardboard dry rounds that sometimes pass as pita. Two pieces come with each plate, which is too much, but you'll gratefully hoard any leftovers.

Above left: fried pita; above right: shakshuka plate with falafel and tabbouleh

The less health-inclined will order the pita deep-fried—thick, crunchy wedges dusted with zaatar, a blend of dried herbs and sesame seeds, looking like a Middle Eastern version of furikake.

Some of the dishes that accompany the pita bread: schnitzel (though it originated in Austria, it's practically a national food in Israel), shakshuka (eggs poached in a tomato stew) and falafel. Shawarma at Shaloha is spit-roasted chicken and/or turkey stuffed into the pita bread. My husband, with an obsession for all varieties of fried chicken, won't stop talking about the schnitzel. He's still mad that he had to share it. Shaloha's falafel are also terrific—crunchy on the outside, moist and herby on the inside. Shaloha's second strength, after the pita bread, appears to be fried food. Other non-fried dishes are less stellar—the eggs in the shakshuka are overcooked (I like the egg yolks in my shakshuka to be runny) and the shawarma lacks seasoning and is overwhelmed by tahini so strong it's almost like peanut butter.

But given that the pita is the true star, and boy, does it deliver, I'll come back for it and all its accompaniments.

Sandwiches $5.50 to $8.85, plates (with two sides) $8.50 to $11.75
Shaloha, 3133 Waialae Ave., 744-4222, shalohapita.com

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