Middle East Feast at Petaluma’s Pearl

Explore exotic flavors-- from sumac to za'atar -- at new Petaluma dining spot

Hold onto your za’atar, Sonoma County is finally getting some Israeli and North African cuisine worthy of Wine Country.

Chez Panisse alum Brian Leitner has opened a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with partner Annette Yang at the former Luma space in Petaluma. But where “Mediterranean” often means Italian or Greek, menu-wise, the newly opened Pearl takes inspiration from the exotic, warm-weather cuisines of Spain, Morocco, Southern France and the Middle East.

Open for breakfast and lunch only, the menu includes “Israeli breakfast” of green hummus, labneh (it’s somewhere between yogurt and cream cheese) and fresh pita with olive oil and za’atar (a spice blend of cumin, sumac, thyme, coriander and sesame seeds); smoked trout with house ricotta and semolina flatbread, cassoulet of duck confit and beans; chicken tagine, with yogurt and couscous; lamb tongue fattoush (a salad with toasted pita) and shakshuka, a vivid tomato stew with chickpeas, fresh fava, baked eggs and grilled sheeps milk cheese I can’t get enough of.

We’ll have plenty more to say about this spot in the coming weeks, but one of the biggest surprises was the no tipping policy. Menu prices include all service, rather than having the restaurant automatically tack on a “service charge” or depend on customers to tip staff. Love that.

Prices range from $8 to $20 with both small and larger plates. 500 First St., Petaluma, 707-559-5187, pearlpetaluma.com.