Saturday, October 27, 2012

Israel: Feh

I've been told many times that Israel has amazing food. Reading David Lebovitz's postings on a recent trip to Israel made me want to drop everything and hop on the next plane to Jerusalem. But dinner this week at Sababa left me underwhelmed. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't remarkable either. We split a hummus and kebab plate. The hummus was good, but it was too heavy on the tahini and too light on the lemon for my taste. The kebabs (think koefte or meatballs) were decent, but decent koefte is a dime a dozen in this town (great koefte...a different story perhaps). Also, one of the three kebabs wasn't quite done in the middle. It's a pretty small menu and cooking three meatballs to proper doneness, especially when the restaurant isn't particularly full, shouldn't be an issue. My biggest issue with this item though is the pita bread that comes with it - this is the same stuff you get all over Berlin. It is made to last for weeks and has more in common with cardboard than bread. I've complained about this before, but am I the only one who thinks pita bread should be more than a vehicle for shoveling various spreads into one's mouth? In Sababa's defense, they do offer pita bread from Israel for an extra 35 cents. I meant to order this, but forgot, so I can only hope this stuff is better. Though if it is, why not (as an Israeli establishment) charge 35 cents more for the meal and serve the good bread? Or just get their bread from Lasan, which is infinitely more delicious than the tasteless, dry stuff they currently serve. We also shared a pomegranate salad, which gets to my other, not easily fixable, issue with Sababa. The salad, was mostly tomatoes (my friend said it usually has more pomegranate, but this time not so) in a nice tangy vinaigrette. The problem here is that tomatoes in Berlin are almost always (even in August) bad. There's just no good way around it. From what I've been told, Israeli cuisine is so good because they have amazing produce. Reproducing Israeli cuisine is like trying to make California cuisine (or even Italian) always falls a little flat. I'm not sure what the people behind Sababa can do about this...but out of season tomato salads are surely not the answer. To end on a positive note, I do appreciate a little cafe like this giving you a bowl of olives and pickles and pickled turnips (swoon) when you sit down. So there is that. Sababa-Mama's Kitchen Kastanienallee 50/51

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