When it comes to the cuisines of the world, Boston is heavy in certain areas. You can’t, as the saying goes, swing a cat without hitting a Thai restaurant. (Let us leave aside the question of why you’d want to swing a cat for the moment.) Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese – we’ve got ’em in spades. Whole areas of the city are devoted to Mexican and Italian, and it’s even possible to get Ethiopian in multiple locations. When dining out ennui sets in, what do you do?
One possibility is to visit a tiny little restaurant on the outskirts of Central Square. Located at 80 1/2 Pearl Street, Baraka Cafe offers Tunisian and Algerian delights that I’ve yet to experience anywhere else.
My dining companion selected the Jbinet with Berber Karmous as our appetizer. This was a plate of Mediterranean cheeses, served with marinated Berber figs. The cheeses were feta and yogurt, appropriately light as an appetizer, and wonderfully salty and tangy. They contrasted nicely with the rich figs. I’m a little concerned that I could have eaten the entire plate myself.
For dinner we went in very different directions. My friend ordered the “Ultimate Vegetarian Platter Du Jour,” which on this jour consisted of hummus, harissa, marinated olives, more yogurt cheese, and some sort of tapenade. While perhaps not the best choice for someone with an eye on their sodium intake, this was a great, colorful platter.
I went in the meat-eating direction with the M’Katef – the most perfectly prepared lamb I’ve ever put in my mouth, served over shallots and cous-cous. This was tender and perfectly seasoned; not spicy, but far from bland.
We finished our meals with tiny Turkish coffees. While these didn’t come in the cezve as it would at the Cafe Algiers, it was a fantastic end to the meal, redolent of cardamom and sweet without being cloying.
The restaurant itself is tiny – there’s a feeling of being in the chef’s living room. Ideal for a date, but it would be a poor choice for a large party. Note, however, that they do not serve alcohol – you’ll need to go for pre or postprandial cocktails if you want that to be part of your evening.