Last evening, an otherwise inauspicious evening, we went to the Alhambra Palace, on the Near West Side of Chicago, for dinner.
The Alhambra Palace is located in one of the ancient warehouse buildings that used to occupy that section of Randolph Street. Late 19th century warehouse buildings. There are no MID 19th century buildings in the area, because in 1871 Chicago was burned to the ground so everything dates from shortly after that auspicious event. (That's twice I've used the word 'auspicious' in this post - and in a year and a half or so I'd never before used it - which in itself is an auspicious event. Crap, now that's four.) Anyway, the Alhambra is a curious mix of Middle Eastern, North African and Spanish influences, just like the Andalusian Region in Spain, which is where the real 'Alhambra Palace' is located. The art which decorates the interior is eclectic and plentiful - everything from stone panels from Ancient Assyria to European oils.
The food is extraordinary. Strongly Middle Eastern in it's influences - preparation and presentation - it was absolutely perfect. I had a shank of lamb, served under a ceramic dome, on a bed of rice with carrots, asparagus and pistachio nuts. A thin tomato based gravy/sauce suffused the rice. Along with my meal, I had a bottle of Almaza, a beer brewed in Lebanon.
Through the whole time we were eating, there was a continuous floor show. Four women, Spanish Dancers, and one male Spanish Dancer, stomped and thrummed and drummed their way around the stage at one end of the room and on the floor of the room between the tables. The male dancer also sang. In Spanish. But the songs sung and the dances danced were not the Flamenco style dances one would expect. There was this strong undertone of the Middle East - in his songs, and in the movement of the women in their dances. Think of combining a Flamenco Dancer and a Belly Dancer and you'll begin to get an idea.
The evening was in celebration of our Anniversary. I believe we may have begun a new tradition in our family, where anniversaries (at least, ours) are celebrated at the Alhambra.
And the next time - I'm gonna try the scallops.