A happy place

The charming Faruk BaShuk bistro in the heart of Jaffa’s Flea Market serves excellent Arab-influenced cuisine.

Faruk BaShuk (photo credit: JONATHAN BEN HAIM)
Faruk BaShuk
(photo credit: JONATHAN BEN HAIM)
Following massive renovations, Jaffa’s Flea Market (Shuk Hapishpeshim) now offers much more than food stalls, memorabilia and second-hand shops. Along the pretty alleys there are many designer shops, lively cafes and plenty of restaurants that come alive at sundown. 
Located in one of the loveliest streets in the middle of the market, and occupying a large part of the alleyway, Faruk Bashuk, offers what its owners call “an authentic Israeli menu that everyone can enjoy.” Using fresh raw ingredients that come straight from the market, the restaurant-bar offers a rich selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes, seafood, meat dishes and more. There is a morning and an evening menu, served alongside a great selection of wines and alcohol.
Most of the activity takes place outside amid dark wooden furniture, some low tables and sofas and graffiti-covered store shutters. The area is divided between three places: Faruk, serving an Arab-middle Eastern cuisine; Lola Bar, which features live performances; and Mimi, an Italian pizza bar that offers handmade pizzas by Pizzaiolo-Chef Raanan Nousel. Located virtually next to each other, patrons of Faruk can enjoy the pizzas from Mimi and vice-versa.
The tables of both restaurants are sprawled in the alley, with some seating by the bar inside.
Faruk attracts a Israelis and tourists alike, couples on a romantic date as well as families with young children, and groups of friends and locals who just drop in for a glass of wine and a hug. The cuisine is Mid-Eastern and offer, according to the proprietors, a menu based on “authentic Arabic dishes, seafood dishes, and lots of alcohol,” all served with warm smiles and happy music that will get you dancing (after you’ve had a few).
Designing his menu around ingredients available in the area, including fresh fish that fishermen bring daily and fresh produce from the market, Chef Yossi Zarfati offers dishes that mix flavors of the Jaffa cuisine with international influences.
“We want you to have a good time,” said our host as she places two shots of a frozen alcoholic drink in front of us. We downed them and duly ordered our drinks – a sophisticated whiskey-based cocktail for my companion and a glass of Chablis for me. The drinks arrived with mezze – a selection of salads (NIS 8 for each or NIS 28 for a selection), and freshly baked focaccia bread, which here is a round flat-bread with coarse salt, herbs and olive oil. Delicious. The salads included red beet and tahini (my favorite), eggplant, fresh garden vegetables, spicy roasted-peppers, salad and more.
FARUK’S MENU is divided into “For Starters,” “Veggie,” “Fish” and “Meat.” Vegetarian and vegan dishes are marked with one or two asterisks accordingly. 
From the starters menu, we had to try one of the place’s staple dishes of roasted cauliflower on raw tahini with garlic-lemon sauce, red onion, herbs and almonds (NIS 46). We also ordered one of the seasonal summer menu dishes – a ceviche of sea fish with scallions, chili, mint and almond tuile (NIS 56). Both were excellent. The fish in the ceviche was very fresh and full of flavor, the vegetables crunchy and pretty. We piled the ceviche on the almond tuile, which served as a toast and got what turned to be a very rewarding bite that went very well with the chilled Chablis.
Our host whispered to us that they had received some fresh fish “this morning.” So for the main dish we ignored the enticing meat dishes. I had the fish fillet from the summer menu – a fillet of mullet (buri in Hebrew), served with yuzu seasoned potato-puree, garnished with roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic confit. (NIS 109). The fish was made to perfection, and the puree was light and aromatic and a perfect accompaniment to the fish.
Across the table, my dinner companion had a grilled whole fish, with grilled potato and lemon sauce on the side. The fish was indeed fresh and prepared just right. Thankfully, it was taken off the grill on time so it was moist but cooked through. The meat fell off the bones but didn’t dry up – no small feat. The price of fish varies according to weight.
If local delicacies take your fancy, try the famous musakhan – a traditional Arabic dish of shredded roasted chicken served with fried onion, sumac and pine nuts in a pita bread with tahini sauce and parsley (NIS 45). There is also a dish of siniya – ground meat baked dish with potatoes, tomatoes and raw tahini (NIS 65), or the lamb kebab served on taboon-baked bread with tomatoes and grilled red onions.
For dessert, we took the cheesecake – old-style and very good, except for the berry topping, which we felt was unnecessary (NIS 39), and a typical Arabic dessert of kanafeh, made with thin noodle-like pastry and lightly salted fresh cheese soaked in syrup – that here was not too sweet, baked in plenty of butter and perfumed with rose water (NIS 39). Also in the summer menu there is malabi (cream-based custard), served with coconut meringue and mango sauce (NIS 39). Chef Zarfati offers daily specials and they are well worth trying, so ask for them.
The service lived up to the place’s reputation and was excellent – very friendly but also very attentive and prompt. Another plus: you get two drinks for the price of one from 5-8 p.m. during Faruk’s happy hour.
Faruk BaShuk
Not kosher
Rabbi Nahman Street 6, Jaffa-Tel Aviv
03-651-5670  www.faruk-bashuk.co.il
Sunday-Saturday 10 a.m.-1 a.m.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.