Having little to no concept about what constitutes Israeli cuisine, we ignorantly thought we were going to survive on hummus and falafels alone on the entire trip. In fact, while we did have our share of those iconic dishes, it was far from all Israel had to offer culinary-wise. During the week, we ate anything from Mediterranean seafood in a classy beach restaurant in Tel Aviv to freshly baked pita dripping with olive oil and zaatar spice in Jerusalem’s Jewish quarter. Bridging the high and low-end dining experiences are casual suppers in restaurants like Barood where we had a taste of Israeli home cooking.
Barood is a tiny restaurant-pub short on food items but long on the cozy, low-key vibe. One can order authentic pub food such as Guinness meat pie to accompany their beers, but after consulting the server, we went for some home-style food.
The maqluba is a Palestinian upside-down rice casserole packed with roasted chicken and vegetables, notably my favorite eggplant and some cauliflower, tender and redolent with the scent olive oil. The rice is perfectly cooked and fluffy, perfumed with the flavors of chicken, vegetables, a light touch of spices and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. It was almost impossible not to polish off the entire plate.
P ordered the sofrito, brought into the Jewish culinary canon by the Sephardic Jews who hailed from Spain. No wonder I found the rich beef stew so similar to sofritos I’ve eaten in Puerto Rican restaurants in New York, though less spicy and sweeter with the addition of sweet potatoes.
After the carb-heavy main courses, it was probably a bad idea to order rice pudding. But I couldn’t resist tahini in any form, least of all sweetened with honey and dried dates and dusted with more of that fragrant sesame seeds. After having to tear myself away from the halva stall at Mahane Yehuda market, I was glad to finally try some freshly made halva at last, and it was less cloyingly-sweet and hard than I had expected.
Tucked in a courtyard that was simply painful to find (we had circled round the neighborhood for 20 minutes and were about give up when a nice lady from the Georgian restaurant Kangaroo pointed the way), Barood was nevertheless one of our favorite addresses during this trip, the combination of great atmosphere, sweet service and delicious comfort food a sure winner. (Tip: we found a promotion for 10% off cash payments in a restaurant guide provided by the hotel, which made dinner even sweeter!)
Address: 31 Yafo St, Jerusalem (Feingold Square)
From Yafo Street close to the intersection of Rivlin Street, look for a stone archway with a Casio (or Seiko or some other watch sign) half-dangling on top. Enter, walk up the stairs and there you will find Barood amongst other dining establishments.