Although I have not been to Lebanon, I would imagine the food of the Bardoni restaurant in Jerusalem (formerly Minaret) is typical Lebanese fare.
Saleh Bardoni is owner of this restaurant, the oldest Mediterranean restaurant in Jerusalem. He still comes in two days a week to work part time. His son, Osama, is now manager. Osama explains that in 1967, his grandfather and father came from Lebanon where he owned a restaurant. In 1970 the family opened the Minaret Restaurant in the German Colony. In 1990, it moved to King David Street and in 2000, they changed the name to the family name, Bardoni, and moved to its present location on Shlomzion Hamalka, located in the lobby of an office building.
Coming into the restaurant gives one a very nice feeling. The entry room has the bar where salads are made upfor the tables and another small bar. The main room which seats 90-100, has low-lit, metal and glass, Tiffany-like chandeliers, and wood floors. The walls are tastefully decorated with framed embroidery, rugs and tapestries, mirrors and Egyptian works on papyrus.
Bardoni. Mezze-appetizers and salads. Photo by Barry A. Kaplan/Jerusalem
White tablecloths cover burgundy cloths; there are cloth napkins, simple white china and wine glasses on the tables. Sami, a waiter for 30 years, is our host.
The English-language menu shows a wide array of liquors and beers, all kosher Israeli wines, cold and hot drinks. There are 15 appetizers offered, main dishes of lamb, chicken, steak and sinia (a casserole of techina, ground meat, onions, herbs and spices). There are five soups, five Israeli fish entrees and three desserts plus fruit from which to choose.
Sami started us off with the standard mezze – 12 salads in an array of colors, flavors, textures and aromas – roasted eggplant (a bit bitter); tchina with parsley (very tasty for a non-tchina person); Turkish salad (a little spicy for me but my companion loved it); pepper salad (very very spicy); tabbouleh (great taste with a delicate dressing); hummus; olives and pickles with preserved lemons; babghanosh; cabbage salad; cut-up salad with tchina; green salad; and felafel (warm, crisp on the outside, tasty inside). These were accompanied by warm pita and, a favorite of mine, toasted pita.
Although these were enough to make a meal, Sami brought us the Arabic chopped salad and large portions of skewered chicken and kofta (skewered ground lamb) with roasted tomatoes and onions. On the side was rice with turmeric and great French fries–brown, moderately crisp on the outside and just out of the deep fryer. Although there was very little in the way of presentation or garnishes, they really weren’t necessary.
Bardoni. Tomatoes, onions, meat and chicken on the grill. Photo by Barry A. Kaplan/Jerusalem
Chef Jamil Morar has been there ten years and has a very good command of the kitchen.
The meal was topped off with mini baklava, red grapes and tea with mint.
For a very special Middle Eastern evening, Bardoni is a great example of Lebanese cuisine.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, food writer and cookbook author who lives in Jerusalem and leads walks in Machaneh Yehudah, the Jewish produce market.