Walking in the Carmel market from Alenby street in Tel Aviv is a unique experience. If you've never visited an old-fashioned food market before, you must do this at least once.
An old market is something of a culture shock. Sellers yelling their wares on both sides, the smells of herbs, fresh vegetables and fruit mingling in the air, and the cheese, wines, and a multitude of other products offered wherever the eye comes to rest. In the midst of all the colors and hubhub you find a restaurant called Bocha.
Elad Harosh, the chef and owner, explains: ''I decided to call my Oriental bistro bar after a traditional Tunisian drink called Boukha''. It's a sort of brandy made from figs. The drink is served in two varieties, made from figs, or made from figs and wild berries.
Having a restaurant located in the middle of a thriving market means no shortness of ingredients at all times. Ingredients, as any competent cook will tell you, are what makes or breaks a meal. To cook really good food, you simply must select only the best fresh fruits, vegetables, and the same goes for fish, meat and fowl.
Bocha is positioned as an authentic Middle Eastern restaurant, with gourmet touches.
Elad tries to take the food he knows from home and mix and upgrade them to a gourmet level. For example, eggplant is a vegetable wildly used in many oriental dishes. I can assure you no traditional will ever taste like, or be called, ''Eggplant carpaccio spiced by a hot tomato salsa, garlic, and olive oil'' (27 NIS). The ingredients can be found in any kitchen, especially in an oriental one, but the end result is a surprise in both taste and looks.
We came to the place at night, and it was a bit cold outside, but a hot loaf of freshly baked bread (9 NIS), and an order of tapas (22 NIS), really helped to warm us up and open up our appetite. We also ordered a dish of Msabecha (28 NIS) – this is a dish consisting of Techina (ground sesame seeds), and Hummus (chick peas), with lamb chops thrown in, and lots of olive oil and seasoning, of course. Very delicious.
We ordered two main dishes, a plate of chicken kebabs, cooked with a multitude of vegetables and served over rice (36 NIS). The surprise here was in the seasoning chosen for the dish, but you have to taste it to find out. A plate of fish kebab (36 NIS), on the other hand, was served with a hot pepper and tomato sauce, and served with couscous, surprised us because the taste of fresh fish (straight from the market) was so apparent and stood out.
One thing is very important to remember when visiting this type of restaurants – ask, ask, ask. The menu changes a lot, and new dishes can appear on the fly, depending on what the market has to offer that day. Desserts aren't even listed on the menu, as they change daily.
All in all, it was a unique and fantastic experience, and, as many important people have said over the years: ''I'll be back…''
Rabi Meir 42 St., Tel-Aviv