When I was growing up in Washington, D.C., my best friend in high school was an Israeli kid named Yudy who was living in the U.S. for a few years while his dad worked as an attaché at his country’s embassy.
Years later, when I was in Israel writing a story on fancy, upscale restaurants, I reconnected with Yudy, who took me around on a street-food tour.
I don’t remember much about the high-end restaurants, but I can recall every bite of amazing Israeli street food I tried. Immigrants from places as diverse as Yemen, Iraq and Northern Africa contribute to an ethnic food scene like no other.
It was a treat to see many of the dishes I loved in Israel at OU for U — a dairy Kosher restaurant in a small shopping strip near Perimeter Mall. The food here is solid and good — better when tinged with nostalgia.
For instance, malawach is a disk of rich, layered pastry — somewhat akin to puff pastry but cooked slowly so that the layers stay tender in the center but gain volume and crunch on the perimeter. You dip it in a fresh tomato sauce and wrap it around hard boiled eggs. The dish is a specialty of the Yemenite Jews who were airlifted en masse to Israel soon after the country’s independence.
Sabich, pictured above, is an Iraqi sandwich that is popular at falafel stands throughout Israel. Meaty slices of fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs and a bit of hummus fill a tender pita with crunchy veggies. Usually, it is served with a turmeric-heavy sauce called amba that has the strange astringency of Indian mango pickle. I asked for some and got a small cup of a very (i.e., too) salty version. But it does add a weird punch. This is a great faceful of food.
Shakshuka, above, is a specialty of Tripoli in Northern Africa. A chunky, well cooked tomato sauce holds coddled eggs. OU For U bases its recipe on the one from Dr. Shakshuka — a famous Tel Aviv restaurant. I have to say the presentation at Dr. Shakshuka, in which the eggs are served in the pan they cook in, adds a lot to the dish. But the flavor is quite comforting.
You can’t leave OU For U without getting good old falafel, because they make a bang-up version The falafel balls are dense but gorgeously spiced.
By the way, the name refers the Kosher symbol of a U inside an O.