Kareem’s Syrian fare... returns to Watertown on weekends. Boston Globe, January 2013
The Joy of Cooking. Boston Globe Magazine, July 2010
Plot the Right Course (cooking schools). Boston Magazine, March 2009
Learning Syrian cooking, and culture. Boston Globe, October 2008.
Dining Out: Kareem's. Boston Globe, December 1998.
Steeped in tradition, Syrian dishes perfect for today. Boston Herald, March 1998.
At Kareem's, dig into tasty, low-fat Syrian spread. Boston Herald, October 1994.
Kareem's: a pleasant oasis. Watertown Sun, May 1994.
Dining Out: Kareem's
The Boston Globe, 12/20/1998
Up to now, Middle Eastern food had not been anything I sought out with any regularity. Good once in a long while, I thought. After eating at Kareem's, I'm rethinking. This unpretentious, homey, we're-all-one-big-family place serves up the tastiest Syrian cuisine I've ever put to palate.
Owner-chef Ahmad Yasin says that some of his recipes have been handed down for a thousand years. He's not handing them on to anybody right now, though. Savoring the creamiest, most delectable yogurt imaginable ($1.50), we asked the waiter what the secret was. "The boss doesn't tell," he said. "He does it at night, so no one can see." Yasin knows about spices unknown to you and me. Potent flavors in mahlookia (2.50 a cup), a bracing brown chicken-lemon soup, come from citrus and an exotic herb that is a member of the mint family but tastes nothing like spearmint. Lamb kebob ($9.95), marinated and charred, arrived with a big slice of green pepper and a similar wedge of onion on tabouleh. It was not on a skewer, and the serving was a bit small, but again its flavor was outstanding.
Also $9.95 was the lamb patty, essentially a bunless but tantalizingly herbed and spiced lambburger, accompanied by a tomato slice and wheat pilaf. The costliest item on the menu, kibbeh at $10.95, is lamb ground with onion, spices, herbs and pine nuts, served with a crust of bulgar wheat. Until Kareem's, I've always found this dish dry and unappealing; not so here. The meat was juicy, the crust crusty, the flavor unique. Six grape leaves with salad and yogurt ($9.95) were filled with the perfect blend of ground lamb, rice, lemon and spices. Syrian salad, romaine with a bit of diced tomato and thin lemon dressing, and Syrian bread come with entrees.
Kareem's feels like a lunch room -- pine-lined walls, fake brick, stainless-steel cook area out in the open, butcher-block tables. Although soup and tea merit real crockery, other dishes come on high-end plastic plates. In the absence of wine (no brown-bags allowed), we drank mint tea ($2 a pot), brewed with finely ground mint leaves. The rice pudding lover among us leapt at her favorite ($2) for dessert; though it was creamy, the grains were distinct, a worthy version, she said. Cinnamon comes on the side to apply, to taste. The rest of us shared a k'nafa, $6, something akin to baklava, but vastly superior. K'nafa consists of Syrian white cheese inside a crust formed of finely shredded filo dough, sauteed to melt the cheese and crisp up the dough, and topped with a thin, honey-based syrup.
The vegetarian menu is as long as the carnivorous one, five items each, though there are chalkboard specials every night. I'm going back for spanikh ($9.95), spinach sauteed with garlic and onion and served with pilaf and Yasin's mysterious yogurt. Or maybe for the spinach salad with fennel, pomegranate juice, and other stuff. Other possibilities are meatless kibbeh, meatless grape leaves, and a couple of things involving chickpeas, all for the same price. The customary Middle Eastern appetizers, tabooleh, hummos, baba ganoogh, falafel and such are joined by rarities, zaater, ground chick peas and sesame seed, and mohamarah, a red pepper dip with walnuts. These run from $2.95 to $5.95. Lunchtime sandwiches ($5.95- $6.95) involve the same flavors.
Kareem, it says here on the menu, means "generous." A hearty eater won't think the portions are, though they suited us fine. A better name for the place would be whatever Arabic word means incredibly delicious.