Dr. Shashuka is a recognized restaurant in the heart of Jaffa serving a variety of Tripolitan specialties in a quirky yet homey atmosphere. It is strange that after almost twenty years of living Israel I have never once gone there so when Nava Writz* suggested we meet there for a late breakfast and I thought it was a wonderful idea.
Nava could not have picked a better restaurant to suit me and I was very favorably impressed, both with her choice and the restaurant. It is exactly the type of restaurant I like, filled with a relaxed personality and delicious aromas. The owner, Bino Gabso was sitting quietly in the corner drinking tea with a friend and overlooking the staff, busy with the bustle of morning clients. The restaurant is located near the clock tower in Jaffa and close to other famous food institutions such as the Muslim Arab owned Abulafia bakery which prides itself for their good relationship with their Jewish customers and deserves a post of its own. The narrow streets merge into outdoor markets and are lined with colorful stores selling textiles, jewelry, brass and other merchandise.
Every weekday from 10am-6pm a flea market assembles at the local courtyard selling all manners of odd knickknacks including a Grateful Dead postcard and a rolling cookie cutter which I bought for a few shekels. Tourists and Israelis wander around looking for a bargain but when they get hungry and hot, Dr. Shakshuka is not far away, offering a shady respite from the hubbub of summertime in the city. The Inside is like walking into a hull of a ship or an ancient shuk perhaps because of all the old brass pots dangling from the high ceiling of the cool interior.
We ordered the restaurant’s name sake, shakshuka which is simply a tomato based egg dish popular throughout North Africa and with as many versions as cooks. The shakshuka came with several Libyan salads including pumpkin, eggplants and potato all which were flavorfully spiced with harissa pepper sauce. It is traditionally served with Israeli bread, the standard fare during Israel’s early years and perfect to soak up the delicious sauce. We also ordered lemon/mint drink, a favorite flavor combination, refreshing and not too sweet.
It was the first time I had met Nava who radiated a friendly confidence that made everything seem a little bit more interesting and exciting. She was born in Israel of Libyan heritage but moved to LA in her early twenties and the mix between Israeli and American is readily apparent. Although her mother tongue is Hebrew and she knows every corner of Tel Aviv where she has spent many vacations, she has been living long enough in America to pick up a certain body language and turn of phrase which shows her globalism.
Of course Nava is much more extroverted than I am and immediately got the attention of the proprietor and introduced me as a Middle Eastern food blogger. This elicited a very fast response of tasty treats from the kitchen which started with mafrum, stuffed potato slices with ground meat and cooked in a tomato sauce. Soon after that came a lovely herbal tea of ginger, cinnamon and rose petals and a rich almond and semolina cake. The Israeli public is hungry for everything culinary and the owner is used to being interviewed for books and television which has helped to make him a well known figure on the restaurant scene.
*Before I met Nava, knew her only through her tweets and as a baby bedding designer according to her business website which I briefly scanned. When I went back home I read her site more thoroughly and was a bit surprised by the scope of her work. She has become the most sought after name in luxurious baby linens and has worked with names such as Jennifer Lopez and Donald Trump.
Cuisine Kosher North African
Hours Sun-Thurs 8am-midnight; Fri 8am-2pm; Sat after Shabbat
Address 4 Beit Eshel St, Jaffa
Here is another Israeli blog which I recently found with more pictures of the restaurant, The Israeli Kitchen