If culinary preferences were two contradicting political parties, my partner would be the meat party, I would be the fish party, and we'd have our coalition meetings at Bertie. This restaurant that manages to produce dishes to both our liking, while looking after the vegan minority interests, is one of our favorites.
Bertie's best definition was self-coined: a Levantine cuisine that makes you happy. And that it does – a collaboration of the Turkish, Greek and Syrian traditions, the tastes of Chef Roi Antebi's childhood, with original twists. And let's not forget the warm, inviting atmosphere, high quality alcohol and friendly service.
We start with 2 cocktails: Queen Mary with gin, chamomile, honey, lemon and fresh hyssop; and Pedro Pier which is a combination of tequila and calvados with cinnamon and honey. We thus decide to leave our differences behind, and for now join forces and have the special soup of the day: Jerusalem artichoke. It is a good example of how flavors are mixed in Bertie's kitchen: the soup contains a good combination of Jerusalem artichoke, vegetable stock, ground Jordan and Portobello mushrooms and just a little bit of sweet cream, to create an aromatic yet not to heavy soup.
But from now on we separate.
The meat party leader starts with Bertie's 2 popular starters: Sfiha and veal sweetbreads. The Sfiha, which is originally a sort of meat pizza, is served here not so traditionally. The meat is not scattered as topping all over the dough bottom, but scooped. With a delicate tamarind spicing, it is set inside a rectangular pastry, and it tastes as beautiful as it looks. The sweetbreads are served on a skewer, roasted just enough to keep the meat juicy, with a "bonfire" potato and a small plate of sour lentil stew, to level the flavors. He then has his main course – a brown, soft and a little bit sweet veal cheek stew, served with home-made malawach that observes the delicious flavors.
On the other side of the table, the fish party wins 2 exceptional dishes. One is the sea fish ceviche. It is made with the catch of the day, and today it is, to my delight, the very thick slices of a red tuna fish, generously served on a Mediterranean salad of spice herbs and roasted almonds, filled with parsley, basil, hyssop and mint that give the fish bitter and spicy touches and some yogurt at the bottom to add some fresh bitterness. The end result is fascinating. My main course demonstrates again the concept of combinations, this time a hot version of it: 2 thick, juicy and white sea-bass fillets laid on bulgur in vine leaves, with a thick garlic cream beneath.
Why not have the 2 ultimate Oriental desserts. Warm, round and crispy Ma'amouls filled with date cream, with scraped Tulum cheese on top; and Malabi! Creamy, not too sweet, decorated with halva hairs, roasted half almonds and home-made rose water. A true delicatessen. It's the kind of Malabi that would be served as a peace offering between true political rivals.