For more than 30 years Diana in Nazareth has been famous for their spot-on food, specifically their fine kebab. A few years had passed since our last visit, and when we heard that a new location had been opened in the Grand New Hotel, we decided that was an excellent excuse to check out the flavours of Diana once again.
The road to Diana is relatively wide compared to the average street in an Arab town, but as usual, it promises a few sharp and exciting inclines. We stop right outside the restaurant (how convenient!) and turn towards the entrance. The Middle Eastern patio refreshingly covered in greenery doesn't prepare us for the surprise inside – a modern Tel Aviv style bar-restaurant: Broad wooden tables, heavy chairs, and an overall look that is entirely Bohemian in nature. This tension between east-west, outskirts-city centre and old-new will stay with us for the duration of our visit.
We sit down at the table, where a glass for juice and another for wine are already waiting; a pitcher of lemonade joins them immediately. There is no resemblance whatsoever to the typical Middle Eastern style restaurant. "Here, we give respect to Arab food, without apologies" answers restaurant manager, owner and chef Dohol Safedi.
The game begins. The first quarter brings a soft and delicate hummus, a variety of eggplant salads, labane, Turkish salad and more. All is fresh and high quality. You can tell that the cauliflower in tehina still remembers its garden bed from that morning. From the west, a salad of baby greens and another of rocket is added. All the salads are served in small portions on a large frosted glass plate – additional regards from the modern world of design.
For the second quarter a dish of high quality shrimp with pepper and tehina arrive hot out of the oil. They all but disappear from our plates in less than a minute, leaving the sound of lip smacking in their wake.
It's the third quarter, and various dishes are placed at the centre of the table. Lamb chops, lamb on a skewer and lamb kebab surrounding a cinnamon stick. The chop is pretty impossible to screw up, and so we were happy to see that the kebab, thank god, has remained as good as ever and was perfectly executed. Spices, fat and pine nuts melt in the mouth for an utterly desirable experience.
The fourth quarter is determined without much of a fight. A huge plate of fresh knafe. Not too sweet, a bit of saltiness from the cheese, and a lot of butter in the dough. Despite the intense competition, and perhaps due to the homey atmosphere, east is the reigning champ in this contest.
All this has given the impression that the new Diana location, located about a kilometer from the old location in the city centre (which gives significance to the newfound accessibility and the parking) will win over a large and devoted following. It's worth going the extra distance, and remembering to stop by an ATM on the way, because the prices (that's life folks) are already completely westernized.
Now, what to end with, Arabic coffee or espresso?
51 Paulos the Sixth St., Nazareth
Grand New Hotel, 5050 Street, Almotran, Nazareth