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    Thursday, April 24, 2014

   

Meat 206 … and a good reason

  Just before a good friend of Shaul Bokmos entered the institution of marriage, the two guys visited a veteran institution, that never disappointed them – Meat 206 – I hereby declare you man and wife…    

 

By: Shaul Bokmos

Meat 206 … and a good reason

  ‘Institution’ is an interesting word that has several, contradictory meanings, and it’s only when certain words are juxtaposed that we get the right context. The difference between Israel’s Mossad (literally: “the institution”) and its National Insurance Institution is major – we admire the former, and deplore the latter. When my friend, the Persian, revealed he was entering the institution of marriage, I envisioned the right context, and knew congratulations were in order. But while my mind was connecting ‘institution’ and ‘congratulations’ I knew my congratulations would entail visiting a different institution – the Institution for Matters of Meat.   So much has been written about Meat 206. You can count on one hand the number of Israeli restaurants soon to turn 40. Though it’s located in the upscale neighbourhood of Zahala, it’s arguably the most grassroots Israeli restaurant of all. And it’s not easy to win ‘institution’ status. It requires long-distance running skills, in a country where the collective memory is shorter than the time needed to read this sentence. Coping with constant changes and fashions is a true war of survival. And above all, an 'institution’ must provide kebabs with the same taste you knew as a kid. Otherwise - heaven forbid – when you take your own kids there, the kebabs will be dry and tasteless, and disappointment wipes out the nostalgic memories. In other words, class, internalise the following equation: Meat 206 is an Institution.   The Persian and I were close to starving when we turned up at 206, the way you are when you anticipate a great meal. As we started down the steps, my stomach already felt comforted. Though nobody knows me there, I still feel at home. Meat 206 recently had a facelift, or more accurately - an eyelid lift. The atmosphere is the same, but minor changes like a private room, a new logo, and the new menus, really upgrade the restaurant.   Before we could check out the menu, a plate of pickles and olives was placed on the table (the memory makes me salivate as I write). Both the content and design of the menu have changed. Its simplicity, and the way it addresses the customers, are outstanding. First, to avoid the usual questions, the menu describes the restaurant’s historical origins at 206 Dizengoff Street. Then it presents the new logo, featuring a lion (symbolizing love of meat), with a crowned head (reflecting the aspiration to be the best) and four stars (one for each decade). And finally the smart idea – highlighting both new dishes, and the flagship dishes. How come no one ever thought of this? Newcomers don’t have to ask “what are the best dishes?” while old-timers’ attention is drawn straight to new offerings. I loved it, in spades.   Then we got down to business and launched ourselves at the hummus and hot fresh pita bread. Hummus ‘al ha kefak’ (Arabic for ‘awesome’) (NIS 24) went far beyond awesome. As a registered hummus addict, I’ll testify in court that it was among the best I’ve had. The falafel (NIS 16) – meant to be a simple side-dish - surprised me by its flavour, crunchiness, generous proportions, and the relatively little oil it had absorbed. We didn't stop there. The cauliflower with tahini sauce (NIS 20) proved that down-home food is best when prepared by an expert. The Persian licked his fingers over the hot mushrooms (NIS 28) - and almost considered bigamy by proposing marriage to the dish.   And of course – the drinks. Lemonade with mint leaves (NIS 12) was the Persian’s tipple, while I plumped for a pale Bazelet beer (NIS 30) locally produced by the Golan Brewery, and with a fine Hebrew name. I felt unbeatable – probably a combination of the beer with photos of Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball players gracing the restaurant’s walls. Before the Persian managed to say a word, I ordered a beef carpaccio (NIS 48) so delicious that it vanished as it landed on the table.   I almost forgot our main-course orders. Outstanding lamb chops (NIS 92) prepared by an artist’s hands, and fillet of beef (NIS 120) whose quality justifies changing the restaurant’s name to Fillet of Beef 2006. Everything was served with aroma-packed roast potatoes with rosemary, and mjadara for which the Persian must have a special area in his stomach, otherwise I have no idea how he found room.   As we munched our meat, we exchanged satisfied looks with other groups of men nearby, chomping on their meat. Forgive me, ladies, but the ultimate atmosphere is when there’s a male majority sharing the meat-eating experience with other guys. And when we received a tasting dish of entrecote skewers (NIS 90), and deboned chicken-thighs in a honey & mustard marinade (NIS 60) I knew I couldn't disappoint the tribe around us –  all eyes were on us. The Persian was the perfect wingman; the entrecote was delicious as only entrecote can be, while the chicken thigh was juicy and relatively low-key compared to the heavyweight flavour of the beef we’d eaten so far.   The end was near. A double espresso (NIS 11), black coffee (NIS 9), and deserts. This carnivores meal had to end with a tribute to childhood – Crème Bavaria (NIS 26) - which I would never give up after any meat celebration. The Crème Bavaria of 206 outstripped nostalgia. You just look at this large, sumptuous dessert, topped with chocolate syrup and streusel, and your appetite wakes up again. The Persian made do with seasonal fruit salad (NIS 24) and classed it the Official Refresher of the meal’s end.   As we walked to the car, my thoughts were wandering. Because I know the Persian so well, I’m sure his wedding will have terrific food and non-stop fun till the wee hours. So, apart from that one-time event, the main thing for him in the years ahead will be the family they build together, and the wife he comes home to every day. Maybe that’s the parallel between the institution of marriage and the institution of meat.   Meat 206 - I promise to come back to you every time. Will you marry me?   Meat 206



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