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August 16, 2001



Café Cav Des Roi

I know just enough fractured French to be a danger to myself and others. Translation has never been my strong suit, but I do know that Café Cav Des Roi means “the cave of the kings café”. I also don’t know if Kamal Zahnan is pulling our leg or just knee-deep in irony, but he’s given his unassuming little café a regal name that belies its down to earth location. One gets to it by navigating the no-man’s lands in the shadow of the Stratosphere Tower, slightly north of Sahara, and turning into a parking lot that ducks behind a motel that eagerly advertises fantasy rooms, Jacuzzis and adult television. The good ness is that those seeking more bang for their buck, are certainly getting it here…whether it’s in the room of from the kitchen.

Besides its location, the Café Cav Des Roi suffers from other handicaps as well. One is not being open past six p.m. which, given the neighborhood, is probably smart. Others are not having waiters, wine or many patrons. In other words, Mr. Zahnan is chief cook and bottle washer—literally—which means you won’t have far to shout if something’s not right. But that rarely happens here in the land of lubia, hummus and toubuli. Once inside, no one complains about the ambience, because they’re too busy enjoying the superb stuffed grape leaves, a lasagna-like kibbe and Zamal’s ethereally light and not too sweet, signature baklava. Those and Zahnan’s attention to detail in everything from his cucumber-yogurt sauce to the lemon-infused ice tea piqued my interest and left me wishing he was more accessible. But then I got to thinking –maybe his reasoning is not as fractured as my French. By doing everything, loving his work, keeping limited hours and feeding his grateful customers, he is engaging his passions and doing what he loves…sorta like some of those motel patrons…and me, every time I taste his food.

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