When it comes to fast food restaurants in the Lamorinda area (Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda), there is but one place in Lafayette where a “golden arches” sighting can be found. As a matter of fact, such culinary genre (as golden arches) could be placed on an endangered species list there. “Bun and Run” places serving low-quality fair just don’t cut it in this sophisticated market.
So where do residents of Orinda and their nearby neighbors go when they want a quick, fair-priced meal close to home? The answer that often comes up when pizza is not desired is Mediterranean food. Several restaurants typically serving gyros, falafels, and chicken shawarma, can be found in the region.
Petra, a small, mostly “to-go” place is located in Orinda’s Theater Square. If one can find parking, Petra is an ideal solution when one desires a gyro and nothing else will do.
Yalla Mediterranean and Gotta Eata Pita are located within a few doors of each other in downtown Pleasant Hill. They offer a more diverse menu, a menu that is handy when one is doing errands on weekends or when one desires a quick bite.
Kabob Burger, next to Trader Joe’s in Lafayette, despite its name, is able to deliver a complete Mediterranean menu with an Israeli slant toward fast food.
What else is left? The answer is the Oasis Café on 3594 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette. Oasis is a unique culinary destination where the term “home made” is taken to the extreme.
When one approaches the entrance of Oasis, which is up an alley from Mt. Diablo Boulevard in central Lafayette, the aroma of gyros meat turning on the spit fills the air. Manager and chef Ronald Alan makes sure every ingredient that is used not only is fresh but prepared on the premises as well. This extends to the yogurt — along with tzatziki, tahini, and hot sauces, all of which are created from scratch.
Oasis’ trademark gyro is made of fresh lamb, which is mixed with paprika, rosemary, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper — along with 10% fat. These ingredients are then ground into a paste and refrigerated for 48 hours after being placed on a disk. The meat is then slowly roasted until done. It is important that the gyros is neither under- nor overcooked before thin slices are cut off the disc when served.
When a diner orders this Mediterranean delicacy, it is rolled into freshly made pita bread — along with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and selected sauces to complete the gyros experience. Also to be noted is the Oasis’ desire for purity. Only organic produce is utilized in what the Oasis serves. Sysco delivery trucks definitely do not have this eating establishment on their routes!
The Oasis makes its falafels in a unique way. Chef Alan says he takes chickpeas and soaks them overnight. He adds fresh parsley along with spices similar to what goes into the gyros. After binding the vegetarian concoction with bread crumbs, he bakes rather than fries the falafels until golden brown. The end result can be eaten as a wrap or be part of Oasis’ Mediterranean Plate, which is served with a Greek salad, house made hummus, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), and assorted meats.
Another notable dish from the Oasis is its chicken shawarma. Oasis takes sliced, boneless, and skinless chicken pieces and marinates them, using garlic, hot sauce, lime, and a couple of secret ingredients prior to grilling the meat. The end result is delicious, especially when the finished product is served with the restaurant’s tabouli salad and a choice of sauces, all of which bring out the exquisite favors of the shawarma.
Unlike most eateries of this type, Oasis offers a limited child’s plate, consisting of a grilled cheese sandwich or quesadilla made from pita bread stuffed with melted cheese. Oasis also serves a freshly made baklava, a dessert often found in other Mediterranean fast-food places.
There is a theme that runs throughout Oasis’ menu. The theme the utilization of fresh ingredients that are low in fat, are high in vitamins, and use plenty of organic produce. Oasis provides a healthy alternative to the “quarter pounder with cheese.”
Even better is this: Oasis provides quality dining close to home.
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