“Last time we were in Arabeska, we chose our entr?e especially well when we ordered a clay dish with thick homemade fries, rice with meat, and the best part – Mujaddara…Over all of these, the juicy meats themselves were placed – tender yet meaty lamb chops, kebab skewered on cinnamon sticks…” Shifra Zach returns to Arabeska, and definitely NOT for the last time.
There are very few restaurants that we refer to as “ours.” One of these is Arabeska, the Lebanese restaurant in Segula junction, near Petach Tikva. The restaurant, which has been in business for two years now, is the fruit of Jewish-Arab cooperation (including a Jordanian investor). The food is distinctive due to its authenticity: the chef and most of the staff are from Nazareth, which means that they prepare dishes familiar to them from home, with all the little details that make all the difference. The markets of Nazareth and its surroundings supply the raw ingredients – baladi vegetables, seasoning-herbs, mutton, and special spices. As aficionados of Middle Eastern cuisine, we never miss the chance to eat here when we are in the area. Occasionally we arrive at lunchtime for a generous business special, but we usually prefer to show up for dinner, take our time, and calmly enjoy the abundance of delicacies spread across our table, all without having to enter Tel Aviv and struggling for a parking space.
Over time, we have developed a set of rituals: upon arrival, we will be greeted by Dia, “our” charming waiter, who will take us to “our” table (the last one by the window), and who will once again try to convince us to forgo the opening spread of appetizers so as to avoid getting too full. He will smile, as he always does, and suggest that we “only have a taste” and then proceed to spread numerous small plates of appetizer-salads and vegetable dishes including roasted eggplant, Turkish salad, spicy carrots, tabouleh, and watercress-salad. There will always be a seasonal variety to supplement the usual selection – last time it was cubes of zucchini in tahini and cauliflower in cumin. Needless to say, we can never resist the temptation to clean plate after plate using hot pita bread. Above it all towers the great hummus, which I tried recreating at home to no avail in spite of the tips given to me by Dia (“add a bit of sugar, and grind it with some ice cubes so it won’t warm up.”).
Next up is our favorite part, one which we will also not pass over – the mid-course of “monk’s eggplant,” a whole eggplant, peeled and roasted, set in the center of the plate, on a bed of tahini, and adorned with seeds of pomegranate and sweet-sour silan (date honey syrup). Sometimes we will have some kibbeh, which has a thin and crispy crust covering a terrific center of ground lamb and pine nuts.
Finally, we will get to the main course, and here is where we try to enjoy something different each time. It could be the kebabs served in two versions – Zachlawi Kebab, coated with warm tahini and the Shami Kebab in roasted tomato sauce, wrapped in lafa bread fresh out of the oven. It might also be the shank of lamb, roasted whole in the oven for an entire night, and served tender and juicy. Last time we were in Arabeska, we chose our entr?e especially well when we ordered a clay dish with thick homemade fries, rice with meat, and the best part – Mujaddara, which, unlike what we are accustomed to, consisted mainly of lentils and bulgur, with just a small amount of rice, which gave it a brownish color and an addictive taste. Over all of these, the juicy meats themselves were placed – tender yet meaty lamb chops, kebab skewered on cinnamon sticks, which gave it a special under-layer of taste. The owners tell us of a new addition to the place: a roasting hole, carved in the ground and in which the food is prepared slowly. We make a note to check this out next time.
In the end, as always, we will enjoy a small yet satisfying portion of Turkish coffee or a tea with special herbs which aid the digestion. This is a must if one you want to have room for the house dessert – “Kadaif,” the traditional sweet which ends the Ramadan fast, and “Knafe” filed with a mixture of almonds and nuts. Both desserts are covered with sweet syrup and halva fibers prepared by this woman in Nazareth. We will always comment on how frightfully fatteni