By John Michael Gurklis

Open Your Mouth

by John Michael Gurklis.

 

After a long day of digging on the tel, the only thing that I can think of is food. Food is fuel and intrinsic to survival, and here at Akko I eat so that I can dig. The specified feeing times at Akko are integral to the day: you must eat food or you will not be able to swing that makosh. Life at Akko is regimented and starts when the sun is still asleep, so I decided to ditch the watch and instead use my stomach as a way to measure the time—it’s quite accurate. Pre-breakfast breakfast, tel breakfast, lunch, and sad dinner keep my inner clock in rhythm as, instead of the watch, raw cucumbers and peppers alert my body to morning, meat to midday, and a sad dinner to the evening. Yet, our relationship to food is much more than eating to survive, we eat to indulge, to taste, to communicate, to experience with one another, and a plethora of other reasonings. Together, these elements give much more context to the food I eat and to when I eat; making a simple mechanical process into a much more fulfilling and integral part of my life.

My tastebuds have aligned themselves to this Mediterranean diet that, for the most part, is lighter than a “typical” American diet. Fresh, raw vegetables and fruits line the table, and various dips and breads add texture and flavor. The flavors, textures, and colors of food here intrigue me and make me try new and exciting foods. Outside of the Nautical College walls exists a city that has a surplus of delectable food. I rely on my nose  to guide me. The new city has a plethora of restaurants that sell falafel, hummus, pizza, etc., but my nose often takes me to the old city when a dinner of cucumbers and peppers is all that is offered. The twisted streets hold an uncountable number of pita stands selling fresh made falafel and shawarma that warms one’s stomach up. Going to the old city is akin to a pilgrimage for me—just for my gastrointestinal system. And while there are many stops along the way, Uri Buri is my “Jerusalem”.

Tucked away towards the north of the Old City is a small, minimal restaurant called Uri Buri. The windows face out towards the Mediterranean, and the food follows the example as chef Uri focuses almost entirely on seafood. Here, for the rest of the blog, I have tried to summarize my experience of the tasting menu in ways other than “so good.”At Uri Buri you can order individual plates or you can get the tasting menu in which plates are chosen for you and you tell them when to stop. The tasting menu is what you should get, of course.

First round: Seared scallops on pureed Jerusalem artichoke. The scallop was meaty and the artichoke gave it a richness, but I don’t remember enough taste wise. Alongside was bruschetta with a burnt eggplant spread on top which gave it a beautiful charred taste. A top of that was cold fish of some sort. The contrasts in texture and flavor were wonderful, and the eggplant taste carried the dish.

Second round: More appetizers: octopus, ceviche, sashimi salmon. The octopus was my first attempt ever and was far too good. The meat had a charred smoky taste, yet it was not overbearing. It felt butter smooth and not rubbery. The best part however might be what they did with the zucchini, which was by far the best I have ever had, with its  strong flavor and undertones of butter and smokiness. The ceviche was wonderful. Lime and lemon/olive oil/capers came together to make an amazing taste, mixing together to be complex. Every bite was savored. The pickled red onion atop was essential, it gave it a different taste lens and also added some needed texture. Last was the sashimi salmon with a soy sauce/wasabi sauce of some sort. This was so interesting as the salmon packs its own unique flavor, while the soy and wasabi play a devilment balancing act. The wasabi is pungent, yet the soy sauce and salmon balance it out, you get the full taste and burn—but only very briefly. I enjoyed this.

Round three: The intermission coconut curry/basil/fish soup was served in what looked like a slightly larger espresso shot glass and it was just perfection. The curry was hot and came up in the upper portion of the taste buds while the basil/coconut were more mellow and filling. The fish added texture.

Round four: Entree number one was shrimp and artichokes served on black rice noodles with a lemon butter sauce. The sauce was rich, but not in an over indulgent way due to the lemons’ sharpness. The shrimp was the best shrimp I had ever had. It being chewy but not too much and had a hearty taste. Artichoke hearts were good.

Round six: entree number two. My personal favorite: tuna on yogurt with chili oil, olive oil, and peppers/onions. The best thing I have ever eaten was the seared tuna, good on its own, and best eaten with a bit of everything as each part plays an essential role. The tuna plays the main melody, but is not the first that hits you. Instead the chili oil/hot peppers hit first, but quickly the mouth soothing elements of tuna/olive oil/yogurt mellow it out to a tasteful level. Its hot but its not. Fantastic.

Round 7: Desert. We got ice cream, three flavors; mint, chocolate, salted caramel. It was ice cream, it was good. The mint ice cream especially, however, was fantastic as it tasted wholly of mint leaf and cream.

My pilgrimage to Uri Buri illustrates the complex relationship to food which we have: fuel, culture, taste, skill. As much as Uri Buri represents immense skill and craftsmanship in their ability to make high quality food, in the end I went there partially because I was hungry and because I wanted to stop that feeling. Yet in many ways my trip to Uri Buri was just as much about food as it was about me learning from other cultures and other people—a theme held throughout the Tel Akko experience.