Merkavá: The reunion with the one who has always been.
By: Carlos Dragonné
I had a long time of not visiting a restaurant of Daniel Ovadiah. Although I appear from time to time in Pewter for take a coffee and eat a piece of sweet bread, the truth is that the formality of sitting at a table to enjoy the creations of Daniel and his kitchen team was something that was pending since a time ago. Even I confess that I have not taken the time to stop in Knot Black for some strange reason, which I will have to correct soon. However, I had heard so many times mentioning its cuisine restaurant of Jerusalem in the street of Amsterdam that I decided to have a gap forced in the agenda to go to meet their vision of this cuisine with that Ovadiah lives daily in their family environment and see which way puts it to the table for us, diners, faithful to his style of cooking. That “hole forced” on the agenda already became three spaces at different times to be able to test, repeat, and enjoy the very best that you have in the menu Merkavá. Welcome, sit, enjoy, and open up the palate. Because yes… once again he did it again.
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In Mexico there are few chefs who have managed to amaze me so many times and ways so different. In fact, the story with a single hand and, after years of absence, Daniel so again. It is not unknown the food of Jerusalem for me. In fact, the concept Hummusiya is one of my favorites of international cuisine, because although many may think that the hummus is pretty basic, the reality is that there can be such variety in the way you serve and prepare that one could need multiple visits just to finish with the versions that serves a particular location. However, it is also fair to say that he had not had such a depth in the cuisine of the holy city, because when we think of kitchen israel, we usually comes to mind cooking jewish par excellence. But if we just stayed with that vision, we would be forgetting three-quarters of the neighborhoods of Jerusalem and, with it, the influences of the kitchens, Armenian, christian and muslim that Daniel has brought to the small kitchen of Merkavá. And I say that it is pretty small because I was surprised that in such a small space could create so much delight.
The best way to get to Merkavá is hungry. It is a statement that seems pretty obvious but if they think that there is no better option to discover what there is to get into a full menu of 15 dishes, where you can try a little of the much that is offered, shared between the two is an obligation and, even, a perfect excuse to return as many times as required. Of all the variety of hummus available there in the menu, I preferred to go for the classic and one with garlic roasted that, without a doubt, change the perception of this dish that many would believe “basic” and that he managed to close me eyes for that moment of romance that we all should experiment with a meal at least once a week. I could tell you about each and every one of the items in this menu of tasting dishes classic of the cuisine of Jerusalem, but the reality is that neither the I’m going to bore you with a chronicle of a classical “plate by plate” which, in the end, I always believed that don’t mean much because the perception of taste is different in everyone and what to my palate it seems to him glorious to others, it may seem difficult to swallow. However, what we can all match is in two main things that shows the kitchen of this place, one of which are the small empire in construction that Daniel Ovadiah is making.
First point… Daniel Ovadiah has grown not only as a restaurateur, but as a cook. The one chef that we met in the now all but forgotten Horseman of the Countess and which we saw grow up and fall in Paxia, with menus spectacular that I drew tears on a couple of occasions, Daniel has been able to rearm from falls, heal the bumps and learn from the challenges presented to it at the time. Ovadiah has been reinvented in the best way that someone like him could and should do: in the kitchen, with flavours that will ignite the memories and are creating new memories. Today, after having said goodbye to Paxia and Morablanca, Daniel has returned without the fuss of other cooks addicted to the covers of magazines and interviews, and it has grown to position itself in the taste that matters most: the diner. Together with your accomplice for several years, Salvador Orozco, I dare to say that Daniel has rediscovered his kitchen and, more important, the kitchen has rediscovered Daniel Ovadiah. And the winners in this odyssey we are, fortunately, us, the that we crossed the thresholds of Pewter, Knot Black, Skull Island, DAO, or, in this case, Merkavá, to allow ourselves to be.
The second idea that is clear in my mind when I try the grape leaves, the kippe crude oil, the falafel and the lamb, among many other things that filled me with not only the stomach, but the spirit is that, once again, as happened years ago with the cuisine menu in chiapas served in Paxia or the kitchen, aristocratic Morablanca, what is here is there is a deep research but, above all, a devotion to the cuisine that they are serving. Daniel Ovadiah is showing his respect for the ingredient, but, more important, is taking us for a personal tour that shows admiration to the traditions of the cuisine of a country and a city that builds the emotions and the identity of this cook mexican and that today, in this corner of few tables, is doing honors in every dish that comes out of the service. This is the cook that he was homesick and, although he never was, yes I admit I went out of my radar for some time. The cook before you serve it something to dissects as much as possible to get to know it, acknowledge it, and understand it; that when you take an ingredient and transforms it into the dish arrives to your table, form an indissoluble bond with him so that in every bite you can feel the passion that will bring the life to venture out; the cook who, although so disímbolo in the huge amount of culinary that it presents, has also been constructed on the basis of these affairs, culinary multi-ethnic trips that he has done, the kitchens in which he grew up, and tastes of those who fell in love with from the beginning.
This has been Merkavá for me. The rediscover to a chef who has known that the falls are just huge opportunities to get up and, above all, it shows what I’ve been saying for years: the kitchen is in the kitchen, not in the magazine cover. Merkavá has been a journey through a cuisine that, although he knew, at the same time I was completely unknown, having fallen in the trap for years of believing that the little that was tested was what little that was worth a try. But, more importantly, Merkavá has been the test that perfect dessert, a dish which, for the fourth time in the adventure of being a diner in the hands of Daniel Ovadiah, I’ve felt like it’s cakey my throat and I crystallize the eyes with flavors that touch the deepest emotions and I look back, thinking of the years that I have been dedicating myself to telling the stories that live on the tables that I feel, and I agree that Daniel has always been waiting in front with something new to discover.