El Menara: "Step into my Casbah" San Jose Restaurant Tip by Callavetta

San Jose Restaurants: 96 reviews and 67 photos

This past week I hosted my Company's first world-wide HR Summit. That left me with the challenge of finding places to take the team for dinners that would be interesting, fun and would have something for every pallet. It had been years since I was last at El Menara, but when colleagues told me about the fun night they had there I jumped on the idea.

El Menara has been in San Jose for quite a number of year. When you walk in the door you know you're in for something different. The front room is a bar with a cool, calm tile fountain. Beyond this foyer room you see lots of red, lots of pillows, low tables and low "couches". Most people sit on the floor, but the low slung couches with lots of pillows are there for people who aren't so good at getting up and down from the floor. The servers have an Ali Baba costume and immediately greet you and ask what you'd like to drink. The house specialty, is a rum and fruity drink that is tasty and will catch up to you fast.

Our party of 13 stretched out in a big corner of the restaurant and immediately got comfy and happy. We had the "Diner Menara". First our server brought a big silver bowl and pitcher and we all held our hand over the bowl while he poured water over them. Hand towels do double duty as napkins and catch alls. At El Menara you eat with your fingers. A big basket of break is passed around and the bread is used to help scoop up the next few courses. The starter was a "salad" that was a mix of eggplant, garlic and something else spicey. Then a pastry filled with ground chicken, almonds and eggs comes out. Next we had chicken tangine, again, grabbing chunks off the roasted chickens with our fingers and sopping up the juices with our bread. The honey roasted lamb and almonds was delicious followed by couscus (and spoons!). Finally we get a chance to wash our hands again and then we enjoyed baklavah and mint tea, poured from high above the tea cups.

Favorite Dish: Somewhere between the chicken and the lamb the belly dancer came. She was very talented and entertaining. Of course she coaxed several of the men in our party up to dance with her, to the delight of their co-workers. The group of women got up enmasse to join in a dance of their own. But our novice attempts to dance should not take away from the dancer's own talents. She did a dance balancing a sword on her head that was very impressive.

This was a great success with my team. I highly recommend this for groups looking for something different.

Address: 41 E Gish Road
Price Comparison: about average
Directions: Gish Road at First Street
Price: US$31-40
Rating: 4
Theme: Middle Eastern
Website: http://www.menara41.com

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  • Written Sep 21, 2008
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