Keeping you shipshape, shipside

Tel Aviv's Bariba offers dishes concocted for their health benefits as much as culinary intrigue.

June 11, 2010 21:56
3 minute read.
Fine dining at 'Bariba.'

bariba restaurant 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

When the desserts are the best part of the meal at a health food restaurant, what does that mean? Seriously – I have no idea. Well, “health food” may be misleading, as it probably conjures up images of bean sprouts, tofu and lots of lettuce. Maybe “healthful” or “nutritious” is a more appropriate description for Bariba.

Since my last time reviewing the restaurant a year ago, much of the menu has changed. I’d remembered the fare as really good, but this time it was a bit spottier. The place still looks the same, with its light-colored concrete floors, wood-and-white décor and wallpaper, augmented by outdoor seating with a view of the Yarkon and Reading power plant.

The menu is almost entirely enticing; there is nothing plain or sparse about it, and none of the overused dishes found at most dairy restaurants are offered. Below each item is a line explaining the nutritional benefits it offers.

I sampled six appetizers. The house specialty is roasted pumpkin slices on a bed of quinoa, accompanied by a mint-yogurt sauce and roasted pumpkin seeds (NIS 36). The quinoa, mixed with nuts and herbs, is full of flavor; the sauce is delicious; the seeds are fun; and the pumpkin tastes like, well, pumpkin. The walnut pâté (NIS 34) was somewhat lacking in flavor, although the accompanying pickled onions gave it a boost. Roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese atop smoky eggplant cream (NIS 29) were a safe choice, as the whole affair was satisfactory, if predictable.

The presentation of the mullet tartare (NIS 42) beneath a hollowed-out tomato, surrounded by a sea of tomato coulis and sheep’s yogurt, was quite attractive, as most of the dishes were. However, had the tomato been used as a bowl, it would have been easier to get at the fish without losing it in the overabundance of sauces on the plate. The few pieces of mullet I was able to salvage were tasty, though.

The herb-leaf salad with bulgur on mashed sweet potato and tehina paste (NIS 32) sounded intriguing. The bitter leaves and sweet potato should have balanced each other, but the textures were a strange match. We also sampled the polenta with mushrooms and Parmesan foam (NIS 38), where the flavors worked but the polenta was a bit too liquid for my taste.

For our mains, we each took fish. I went with the mullet fillet coated in purple crumbs and served with pea risotto (NIS 96), and my dining partner chose the salmon in an apple-Early Gray gravy with red rice and an herb foam (NIS 94). I liked the beet-infused coating on my fish; it was a hearty portion with delicate flavors. My dining partner wasn’t thrilled by his salmon, and I found it creamy almost to the point of buttery. The foamy sauce was pretty neat, though.

We washed everything down with house lemonade (that lacked any evidence of having been made with lemons) and some wonderful wines from Tavor and Carmel.

Dessert, as I mentioned, was the showstopper. We had a crème brûlée with a light ginger accent (NIS 36) that was fantastic; a dish that purported to be caramelized bananas with thyme, meringue and caramel sauce (NIS 38) that thankfully had no hint of bananas in it but was quite creamy, if sweet; a scoop of chocolate mousse (NIS 12) that was perhaps too thick but was rich and delicious; and a cup of rosewater cream (read: malabi) topped with pomegranate syrup and pistachios (NIS 12) that was also a nice treat.

Bariba does its best to marry interesting cuisine to healthy cuisine, and everything really does sound good. Sometimes the execution falls a bit short. Still, there are very few kosher options at the Port, and Bariba has more selling points than just that.

Bariba, Northern Tel Aviv Port,
(03) 602-5026. Open breakfast-dinner. Kosher.

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