More OC Eats
When I heard about the Ramadan Buffet at Olive Tree in Anaheim's Little Arabia, I knew I'd found the right place to partake in this rich culinary tradition. Owned by Palestinian native Abu Ahmad, the restaurant is known for serving regional specialties from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and Egypt. The menu often features celebratory dishes traditionally made for weddings or homecomings, found here as daily specials or included on a rotating basis as part of Ramadan buffet for the break-fast meal called iftar.
For observant Muslims the world over, Ramadan is a period of both contemplation and community. And what better way to celebrate community than by breaking your fast together? While iftar was once a small family affair with a handful of dishes, it's evolved over time into a feast characterized by generosity and hospitality.
For the entire month of Ramadan, Olive Tree's all-you-can-eat buffet provides over 20 appetizers and mains, with drinks and dessert. The iftar menu changes daily, and almost every night is sold out, so reservations are necessary (though more challenging than snagging a seat is figuring out how to leave the buffet without bursting). Even before the sun sets, the line to the buffet buzzes with hungry fasters. Traditional observers break fast first with a plump date and water. At Olive Tree, servers pass plates of dates down the line.
I joined the line with a friend as the sun set over Anaheim to begin our feast. We didn't have enough dedication to fast in the true tradition of Ramadan, but we did try to save our stomachs for the epic dinner. The warm summer night ended with singing, relaxing, impromptu drumming, and drum-tight bellies.
Olive Tree's Ramadan buffet ($22) runs through August 9th and begins after sunset (around 8pm, but the line starts at 7:30pm). The mains change daily.
Click here to view all the dishes in the slideshow, or check out the best of the Ramadan buffet below.
Tasty Middle-Eastern Staples
- Labne with pine nuts
- Labne with eggplant and spices
- Phyllo triangles with beef, potato, or cheese
- Saffron polow
- Onion and Spinach Pakora
- Dates (it's traditional to break your fast with dates first)
- Mansaf, Jordanian lamb shoulder braised in a yogurt sauce
- Lamb shank, made with 10 spices and slow cooked for eight hours until fork-tender
- Spicy fresh tomato with green chile, garlic, and cheese
- Carmelized onions and lentils polow (rice)
- Tahalat, roasted lamb spleen with garlic, cilantro, and chiles
If Your Plate Has Space
- Fasoulia Nashfe, lamb and white bean stew
- Spiced chicken wings
- Musakhan, baked chicken rolls spiced in sumac
Less Than Impressed
Olive Tree512 S Brookhurst St., Ste 3 Anaheim, CA 92806 (map) 714-535-2878 [Reservations for iftar are required]; website
About the author: Joy Hui Lin is an international food and screenwriter based in Los Angeles.