Thanks to the Taste. Thanks for the Barake

“The leg meat was fatty, tender, and went well with the crispy beans and the seasoned croquettes…” Daniel Rom got into trouble with his girlfriend when an innocent visit to Barake restaurant reminded him of his first girlfriend and her mother’s cooking.

It is quite interesting to observe the development of the local culinary field over recent years. Young and promising chefs, having studied the secrets of cooking here or having traveled the world, have brought over a fresh breath of air, so to speak, in matters of worldly delicacies, from east to west. Today, alongside good old-fashioned Israeli restaurants, new chef and gourmet restaurants are appearing on the map – places which sanctify the kitchen and which consider it an honorable place of art, palette, and aesthetics. In the midst of this trend, I suddenly found myself in fact missing home-cooking: hot, authentic, well-seasoned, and in challenging quantities.

Our grandparents, and even our parents, are getting older. There are those of us who wisely chose to spend some time with mom in kitchen – saw her returning home from the market, chopping the vegetables, slicing the meat, and lovingly seasoning it all. I am one of those who failed to do that. To be honest, the first time I experienced such sites in the kitchen wasn’t until much later in life, at the home of my first girlfriend. That time in my life, carved in my memory as a nostalgic mix of emotion, confusion, and naivet?, provided me an even greater love than I had for my first love at the time – a love for traditional Moroccan food. No matter where we were, her and I, Friday night’s routine was ironclad. At eight pm, like clockwork, her entire family would congregate for the Kiddush (Jewish blessing of the wine), fish, and rich hot couscous. I became addicted to the spicy appetizers, to the couscous her mother prepared, and to the Chamin (or “Cholent,” a meat stew) set on the Shabbat hot plate. Plenty of water has since passed under the bridge. After she left, I even tried to prepare the exact same couscous myself. The taste was similar, and still, something about the special mixture of spices and about her Moroccan mother’s touch was missing from my own. Without even being aware of it, that old yearning subsided and has lay dormant for years. Barake restaurant awoke it.

I was told of Barake by a friend from work. He informed me that a small Moroccan restaurant had opened on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv and that I just had to taste their couscous and fast. In charge of the restaurant’s kitchen is a proud Moroccan woman who got the idea for the restaurant due to her friends’ endless imploration for her to invite them to her meals. I thought that there would be no better time than the holidays to savor some Moroccan flavors, together with my present girlfriend.

Barake restaurant is devoid of pretension. The d?cor is simple and warm; the menus are adorned in colorful Moroccan decoration, possibly traditional and possible modern. At Barake’s they let the food do the talking. Giant pots filled with good food sit atop a stove at the restaurant’s entrance. The plentitude (which is the meaning of the word “Barake”) is spread before you: Nile perch and vegetable stew, stuffed artichoke, beef and chicken croquettes, leg meat and white bean stew, oven-browned garlic-potatoes, shoulder-meat roast in saffron, and more. The waiter who picked up on the overwhelmed looks on our faces (and who is probably used to seeing them), offered to take care of us and recommend some dishes. We trusted him completely. Besides, we doubted it was even possible to make a poor selection in this place.

The appetizer-salads made their way to our table: homemade hummus, zaaloc eggplant, cabbage salad, Moroccan-style pickled vegetables, and spicy carrot salad. These were accompanied by hot and puffy pita bread. We struggled hard not to get too full before the entr?es but to no avail. My entr?e was a rich, generous dish of both chicken and beef croquettes, seasoned and juicy, served with white rice with beans and leg of cow meat. This dish was also served with mini baked potatoes with an aroma of garlic and seasoning. The taste was wonderful, but mainly fami