When Reut called me, and suggested that we have ourselves a little fun day at the Dead Sea, she wasn't too pleased with my response. Floating, relaxing and smearing mud all over yourself…it's all well known for serious relaxation – so why exactly is that considered a recipe for a 'fun' day?
Nevertheless, we left relatively early in the morning, got to the beach, floated, relaxed, coated ourselves in mud and it was lovely. The surprise happened around 22:00, when we planned to head home. As we tramped between the hotels trying to find the car, we ran into a group of tourists that we'd met earlier on the beach. Home? Why go home? Come to the bar with us! To which I announced, mostly out of curiosity, (A bar at the Dead Sea? Where is it? How did the tourists find out about it before we did?) that we would indeed be joining them.
So, yes, there is apparently a bar at the Dead Sea. A real bar, a professional bar, a bar with a full menu and an impressive selection of quality alcohol! The bar is called Nirka, and those who don't visit when they are at the Dead Sea don't know what they are missing. Everything – from the entrance, to the music, to the smiles on Nirka and Ezra's faces (the owners) as they welcome their friends, (I can't really call them customers cause it just doesn't feel like that) to the all the people who come here to have a good time – makes for a unique experience. It seems that the magic comes from the combination of the Dead Sea with a bar - it's hard for me to explain, but a Tel Aviv bar isn't able to provide this feeling of freedom. But in the end what do I care about definitions –Nirka is a sign that I shouldn't be too concerned with them.
Until now we've been grounded in Nirka's enticing personality, but at around this point Reut informed me that she was getting a bit hungry, and if I don't mind, she'd like to order a little something. Of course Nirka gave us a big smile and said she'd take care of us. And then the food started flowing: a vegetable salad with all sorts of little surprises (baby corn, for example), which might sound a bit banal, but in my opinion a vegetable salad is normally one the hardest things to be surprised by: finding the right combination of herbs and spices, not overdoing certain vegetables, putting the dressing on the side, choosing the less banal vegetables…I don't know how they did it, but at Nirka they found the combination that comes closest to perfect that I've ever tasted. Vine leaves arrived with the salad – a beautiful dish, tasty, with the appropriate amount of oil, and covered with an excellent yoghurt sauce. A little more serious in terms of filling us up were the pitas – fresh and with hummus on the side, the pitas perfectly fit the bill and added the sent and flavour of a feast to the table. Also with the pitas came various pickled vegetables (carrot, cabbage, cucumber…), all in all – worthy refreshments, and more than that, suited to both picky and gourmet eaters alike.
There is nothing like a day at the beach to work up an appetite, especially if that person is me. Thus, and with Reut's agreement of course, we asked Nirka to turn it up a notch with the food. Even though we were totally pleased with the starters, we still weren't prepared for the high quality of the larger dishes. This felt like a gourmet restaurant, and I'm not exaggerating: First, we got wraps – dough stuffed with a filling – which were excellent. However simple this idea seems, the result was somehow unforgettable. Something between a first and a second course, they were light, yet satisfying and amazingly tasty. Alongside the wraps came Nikra's pizza. "Not a quesadilla", is actually what it’s called. Thin crust pizza, but for a change, not just the kind that breaks between your fingers, and ruins the experience; this is real pizza, the kind that makes you understand why thin crust pizza is the best. And with a topping that only improved the incomparable, like Bulgarian cheese, olives and tomatoes. It’s very likely that this is the best pizza I have ever tasted – not less than that.
Making this entire immoral meal even more corrupting was a selection of alcohol. We chose to go with a half litre of Paulaner for each of us, a quality beer that always goes well with food and pleasure. This time too, the chilly beer went well with the Dead Sea’s breeze and the good food, all of which took me back in time as I fell in love with life all over again…
Kenyon Ein HaTchelet (Mall), Ein Bokek Shopping Centre (next to the hotels) Dead Sea