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Baraka - latest in J. Bulow empire (long)

Joan Kureczka | Apr 27, 200311:10 AM

We went down to Baraka last evening which has been open at 18th and Connecticut for about 2 weeks. Glad we made a reservation, the place is already a mob scene. And while the Chronicle noted its opening, there has not yet been a major review.

So very crowded (although not as deafening as Chez Papa) And deservedly so. This was some of the best restaurant food I've eaten in a long time. It's another small plate restaurant with the highest prices hitting $12 and most in the $6-7 range. But the concept is Moroccan and spanish (Basque and otherwise). And it is very well done.

The table breads included 2 sorts of epis, a raisin version and a darker bread that I didn't try. Rather than butter or olive oil, they were served with a cumin-laden hummous.

We started with fresh fava bean falafel with a very light tahini based sauce -- probably mixed with yogurt, as well as lavash with a sauce-like version of dukkah (toasted sesame seeds and herbs mixed with olive oil). The falafel were wonderfully light on the inside, crunchy on the outside. Great layered between the lavash (which had been suggested by our waiter). Our other first dish was a truly fabulous warm, pistachio-encrusted goat cheese, served with a sweet onion jam and toasts. Yum.

We then had a nice swordfish brochette with chermoula and a lamb brochette with a really fabulous savory salsa verde (if you like strong flavors, you'll probably love this). The lamb itself was well seasoned and tender, with red onion slices also on the brochette.

We capped off dinner with an order of the orange blossum beignets with goat yogurt and orange marmelade. The beignets were incredibly light and served warm, dusted with fine sugar. Had a good, sweet Moroccan mint tea with this.

Quite an extensive wine list, including about 20 wines by the glass. Looked like there was a pretty good selection of spanish wines. We've been on a rose kick for the past year and found a good one we'd had before -- a Corbieres imported by Kermit Lynch. It's also probably the least expensive wine on the list at $18. Otherwise, the only other rose was from a Mendocine winery I didn't know. It would be nice if they would add some Spanish roses as well. Roses go very nicely with this sort of food, and are generally a real price value.

I liked this place so well that I'd like to have a standing reservation!

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