Rethink Taco Tuesday with Tacos Árabes at Simcha Restaurant
The new menu item (and weekly $2 special) at chef Avi Shemtov's Sharon spot riffs on a Mexican-Middle Eastern invention.
At Simcha in Sharon, chef Avi Shemtov explores the international and contemporary influences on Sephardic Jewish cuisine. At first blush, that may not sound like the most obvious restaurant to find “Taco Tuesday” specials—but only if you’ve never heard of tacos Árabes, which just joined Simcha’s menu. These pita shells are filled with flavor combinations that reflect the Mexican-Middle Eastern heritage of the food, as well as highlight Shemtov’s own modern takes on Jewish cuisine in New England. They’re available nightly for $4 to $8 each—and beginning today, July 30, a rotating lineup of flavors will go for just $2 every Tuesday, all night.
“Tacos Árabes capture the essence of Simcha,” Shemtov says.
As he explains it, Middle Eastern immigrants in Puebla, Mexico, created “Arabic tacos” after the first World War by wrapping pita bread around spit-roasted, marinated lamb or pork—you know, taco-style.
At that time, Shemtov’s own family was still in Turkey; his grandparents immigrated to Israel in 1949 and later, to Greater Boston, to flee anti-Jewish hostility they experienced in the Arab world. Wherever they went, Shemtov’s grandparents picked up new culinary techniques, ingredients, and flavors, and incorporated those ideas into the traditional foods they made, Shemtov says. This is true for all of the Jewish diaspora, and this is the kind of culinary heritage Shemtov explores on his Simcha menu.
Simcha’s new tacos Árabes don’t just pay rote homage to the oregano-heavy, shawarma-inspired classic style, or even its best-known, Mexico City-born cousin, tacos al pastor. Shemtov broadens the lens on globally-inspired, pita-wrapped tacos with creative flavor combinations like braised short rib beef with blue cheese aioli; roasted vegetables and fried chickpeas with tahini and carrot-top zhoug; house-made crumbled coriander sausage with mango-habanero slaw and feta; and even a smoked whitefish taco with pickled vegetables, a flavor combination that wouldn’t be out of place on an Ashkenazi (European) Jewish-inspired menu, the type of ethnic Jewish cuisine more commonly found in modern restaurants. (Simcha typically specializes in Shepardic Jewish cuisine, reflecting that community’s Iberian and Arab-world influences.)
The taco options will vary, as Shemtov has more ideas. “It was just plain fun to explore the history of tacos Árabes and bring those flavors to our guests,” he says.
Check out these handheld vessels of culinary history at Simcha in Sharon—on Tuesdays from 5-9 p.m., they’ll run you just $2 a pop. Another incentive to head out of town for these flavors? Tacos Árabes will pair well with Uncle Dave’s Belgian White, a complex but easy-drinking witbier-style ale with coriander, anise, grapefruit, and honey, brewed exclusively for Simcha by Barrel House Z. Taco happy hour and craft beer, at a modern Jewish restaurant? Makes perfect sense to us.
370 South Main St., Sharon, 781-867-7997, simcharestaurant.com.