Life Sabich

Amba's sabich is bringing a new Israeli sandwich to the people

Jonathan Wornick has a dream.

Alongside fast-casual ethnic restaurants like Chipotle and P.F. Chang's, he wants to see Israeli food represented. To realize that vision, he and his partners are starting small with the recently opened Amba, a kosher vegetarian café in Oakland's Montclair Village.

In addition to well-known Middle Eastern bites such as small-batch hummus ($6) and falafel sandwiches ($7), Amba is introducing the Bay Area to another Israeli fast-food staple, the sabich ($7, pictured).

Sabich, a pita sandwich that came to Israel by way of Iraqi Jews, is traditionally a Saturday breakfast specialty, with the ingredients prepared ahead to avoid violating Sabbath restrictions. While the fillings in this messy two-hander vary by maker, one–slices of meaty fried eggplant–is constant. Recently, sabich has broken the breakfast barrier, practically supplanting falafel and shawarma in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as the go-to sandwich for an anytime pita pick-me-up.

The version at Amba demonstrates that the sandwich's popularity is well-deserved. Here, the eggplant is substantiated with hard-boiled egg, smooth tahini, tart Israeli salad and the restaurant's namesake, amba, a spicy pickled mango sauce.

Served with a side of olives and pickles, Amba's sabich will have you imagining that Wornick's dreams of a chain of Israeli joints will come true–and fast.

Amba, 6464 Moraga Ave., Oakland; 510-339-8000 or ambafalafel.com