Keeping you shipshape, shipside

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

bariba restaurant 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
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 sparseabout it, and none of the overused dishes found at most dairyrestaurants are offered. Below each item is a line explaining thenutritional benefits it offers.
I sampled six appetizers. The house specialty is roasted pumpkin sliceson a bed of quinoa, accompanied by a mint-yogurt sauce and roastedpumpkin seeds (NIS 36). The quinoa, mixed with nuts and herbs, is fullof flavor; the sauce is delicious; the seeds are fun; and the pumpkintastes like, well, pumpkin. The walnut pâté (NIS 34) was somewhatlacking in flavor, although the accompanying pickled onions gave it aboost. Roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese atop smoky eggplantcream (NIS 29) were a safe choice, as the whole affair wassatisfactory, if predictable.
The presentation of the mullet tartare (NIS 42) beneath a hollowed-outtomato, surrounded by a sea of tomato coulis and sheep’s yogurt, wasquite attractive, as most of the dishes were. However, had the tomatobeen used as a bowl, it would have been easier to get at the fishwithout losing it in the overabundance of sauces on the plate. The fewpieces 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 shouldhave balanced each other, but the textures were a strange match. Wealso sampled the polenta with mushrooms and Parmesan foam (NIS 38),where the flavors worked but the polenta was a bit too liquid for mytaste.
For our mains, we each took fish. I went with the mullet fillet coatedin purple crumbs and served with pea risotto (NIS 96), and my diningpartner chose the salmon in an apple-Early Gray gravy with red rice andan herb foam (NIS 94). I liked the beet-infused coating on my fish; itwas a hearty portion with delicate flavors. My dining partner wasn’tthrilled by his salmon, and I found it creamy almost to the point ofbuttery. The foamy sauce was pretty neat, though.
We washed everything down with house lemonade (that lacked any evidenceof having been made with lemons) and some wonderful wines from Tavorand Carmel.
Dessert, as I mentioned, was the showstopper. We had a crème brûléewith a light ginger accent (NIS 36) that was fantastic; a dish thatpurported to be caramelized bananas with thyme, meringue and caramelsauce (NIS 38) that thankfully had no hint of bananas in it but wasquite creamy, if sweet; a scoop of chocolate mousse (NIS 12) that wasperhaps too thick but was rich and delicious; and a cup of rosewatercream (read: malabi) topped with pomegranate syrup and pistachios (NIS12) 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 abit short. Still, there are very few kosher options at the Port, andBariba has more selling points than just that.
Bariba, Northern Tel Aviv Port,
(03) 602-5026. Open breakfast-dinner. Kosher.