making a drink
MIXOLOGIST - Chef Esam Shaqir concocts a Dar Garden Martini. (Laura Ness / Los Gatan)

According to brothers Milad and Chef Esam Shaqir, Dar means “house of” or “family of,” and symbolizes the essence of home, warmth and hospitality. These qualities were on full display May 1 at the Grand Opening for their restaurant of that name.

Atop the Soda Works Plaza at 11 College Ave., nearly 250 people—local residents, foodies, Town officials and business owners—filled the patio. The weather was most hospitable, the atmosphere further brightened by the bouquets of flowers that arrived as the party kicked-off. The mood was festive, with live music by Gypsy Tribe. Alongside other libations, an open bar featured mixed drinks made with High Noon Whiskey. Beverage companies sent representatives to pour wines from all over the world, including Banshee Brut sparkling wine from Sonoma.

People kept coming and very few left. They feasted on lamb meatballs, grilled prawns, fragrant and flavorful eggplant crostini, olives wrapped with anchovies, and caprese skewers—brought out by the trayful and quickly consumed. Chef Esam looked relaxed and completely thrilled at the turnout, telling me that everything was gelling at the restaurant, which opened in March. “We have the right team, good staffing levels, and we are very much in sync with our customers,” he said. “It feels like we are really getting there.”

In attendance was a who’s who of Los Gatos, including Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Lin, renowned flamenco guitarist Roderigo Teague and his wife Missy, Carolyn DuClos, author of “A Suitcase Full of Cookies,” her neighbors Fred and Ev Gerbino and photographer Arnold Breit, who had a long career in hospitality.

Read about the history of Soda Works Plaza

Our recent Discover LOST Gatos piece dug into the history of the Dar building

The Shaqir brothers were born and raised in the Middle East before immigrating to the United States in 1994, where they lived briefly on the east coast before coming to California. Both have deep ties to the community, having worked at Bella Saratoga (in Saratoga), where they have another restaurant called Tamra Mediterranean Grill—named for the town near Nazareth where their mother sourced her spices.

It is those spices that infuse the food and atmosphere here with a Mediterranean warmth and feeling of relaxation. It’s obvious that the two have spent their entire lives perfecting their craft. As he welcomed the stream of guests to what had become a porch party, Milad Shaqir echoed his brother’s sentiments, saying they’re making adjustments to align with community preferences. “Everything is coming together, and I feel we are definitely getting really close to where we want to be in terms of execution,” he said. “The reception from the community has been so great.”

chef with flowers outside
BOUQUETS – Chef Esam carries flowers across the new restaurant he started with his brother. (Laura Ness / Los Gatan)

Chef Esam later explained they are adding some new dinner items, among them a boneless chicken dish served over garbanzo beans, butternut squash and carrots, and two new pasta dishes, which use fresh tagliatelle from a Santa Cruz provider. A Mediterranean pasta dish will star on the lunch menu. It’s made with eggplant, tomato, onion and peppers, and is topped with feta. Another, a riff on ragù, is made with slow-simmered beef and veal, whole-canned tomatoes and their spices.

“When I’m happy, I get the most creative,” says Chef Esam. He notes that they always have branzino, sea bream and salmon (lunch only) on the menu, and the pomegranate lamb shank is one of their most popular dishes. “We also have a new appetizer of lamb meatballs,” he added. A sized-down version of this was being consumed at the open house. “These are two large meatballs—very substantial,” he continued. “I feel that you eat first with your eyes.”

To demonstrate, he stepped behind the bar and shook up a signature Dar Garden Martini, made with basil, cucumber and ginger, pouring the lovely light-green liquid into a cocktail glass. “You must try this sometime,” he said—as off it went to a table of happy diners outside, who were clearly enjoying the sunny afternoon.

Previous articleGoPro, credit cards stolen; man arrested for burglary; BMW driver caught blocking hydrant (Police Blotter, April 21-27)
Next articleMother and daughter say Grad Night bash will be epic


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here