Though Narah Café (2896 W. Pioneer Pkwy., Dalworthington Gardens) has been open just a few months, many have already fallen for its charms: friendly service, languid coffeehouse atmosphere, and slick (if a bit too bright) décor. Notice Chow, Baby didn’t list “great food.”

Narah bills itself as a “Mediterranean Grill & Hookah Lounge,” and on a recent Tuesday evening only Chow, Baby and its beloved were unhip enough to be there for the first half of the equation. By 9 pm, most of the tables and couches were occupied by sextets of college students sharing pipefuls of fruited tobacco ($10.95; $15.95 for owner Samir al Faleh’s “Starbuzz” blend). Yes, Tarrant County’s young people are jumping on the latest “new” trend – of course, hookah-lounge madness swept the rest of the country two years ago, but we’re usually five years behind the curve, so in a sense we’re ahead. Cool.

Fortunately, Chow, Baby is not anti-smoking – heck, it still mourns the mid-1990s demise of Balkan Sobranie cigarettes (from “the finest Yenidje tobacco,” mmm) – and didn’t mind eating in a haze-filled room. At least, not at first. We started with nice creamy hummus ($4.50) and doughy spinach pies ($4.95), then a thick, flavorful lemon lentil soup (included with entrées, or $2.50 à la carte). A promising start, but unfortunately, and like so much else in Chow, Baby’s life these days, Narah sags in the middle. Entrées followed a formula: overcooked meat served with boring, unadorned rice, with a quarter of nearly raw onion and a tomato wedge filling the “with grilled vegetables” slot. Chow, Baby’s lamb kabob ($11.95) had a nice gamey aroma but was charred to near-briquetteness; only the two biggest chunks were still tender in the middle (not juicy, just a bit tender). And Chow, Baby has never had such dry, flavorless beef shawarma ($8.95). Raspberry-syrup-drizzled rice pudding ($3.50) was pleasant, though.


The best bets here are the sandwiches: For about $6, you can get any of the meats in a toasted pita, with tahini sauce for juice and grilled veggies for flavor. Indeed, that’s what most of the hookah-lovers were chomping on between tokes; extra credit for being smart as well as hip. Chow, Baby, being just one of those, will go eat someplace else.

Breaking News of the Week

Normally Chow, Baby doesn’t get too excited about announcements that a great new restaurant is planning to open here. For one, Chow, Baby is hungry right now; we’ll worry about later later. For two, restaurants never, ever, actually open when they think they will. Like, the mid-January opening of Olenjack’s Grille has already been pushed back to February. And Chow, Baby isn’t making reservations for April 1, the latest target date (of many) for Grady Spears’s long-promised 80 West.

But this one is worth saving tummy room for: Jean-Michel Sakouhi, who used to run The Balcony (and Dallas’ Le Paris Bistrot, later called Figaro Café), has signed up for 4,100 square feet in Bank One Tower. He’s planning a fancy French restaurant, natch, to be called The Vault, but with some of the Balcony’s signature dishes. So if all goes as planned, in March (or April, or May) Chow, Baby should be able to fill up with rack of lamb and Spanish freshwater shrimp. How do you say Yee-haw in French?

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