Don't be Shaya

Chef/restaurateur Alon Shaya opened his highly anticipated new restaurant Saba (5757 Magazine St., 504-324-7770) May 4.

  The menu at Saba, which means grandfather in Hebrew, culls influences from Israel and the regions that have made their mark on its cuisine, including nations in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Fans of Shaya's wood-fired pita bread will be happy to hear that Saba will be serving an "improved" version of the bread using flour from local baker Bellegarde Bakery, according to a release from the restaurant.

  Cara Peterson is the chef de cuisine and front-of-the-house operations will be run by General Manager Jessica Retif.

  Shaya formed Pomegranate Hospitality ( last year and hired Zach Engel, who was named the Rising Star Chef at last year's James Beard Awards, as director of culinary operations. The company will open Safta, a sister restaurant to Saba, inside the Source Hotel in Denver.

  Shaya publicly parted ways last fall with his former employer and partner John Besh amid allegations of widespread sexual misconduct at the Besh Restaurant Group. Besh's company, recently renamed BRG Hospitality, went to court to retain the use of the name Shaya at the restaurant the chefs founded together.

  The Saba menu features grilled, skewered meats — also called shislik — including octopus with shawarma spices and eggplant with peas and zhoug. There are dishes served family-style such as harissa-roasted chicken with bay leaves and lemon and a lamb shank basteeya with ras al hanout, dried fruits and walnuts. Hummus is served with toppings ranging from blue crab, snap peas and mint to wild mushrooms with a soft-cooked egg and crispy chicken skin.

  Brunch includes a Saba sampler tower of bagels, smoked fish and fixings. The brunch menu includes pastrami, egg and cheese on crispy Yemenite flatbread. For desserts there are warm babka with hazelnut gelato and blackberries and a labneh cheesecake flavored with Turkish coffee and cardamom meringue.

  The wine list highlights bottles from Israel, Turkey, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and coastal Europe, as well as some American bottlings.

  Saba is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday and there's a midday menu as well. — HELEN FREUND