In my efforts to highlight restaurants that exist in the shadows of their neighbouring matcha latte– and quinoa salad–slinging eateries, I would like to talk about the magical Syrian Imbiss, Yarok. For reasons that evade me, Yarok has never made it to citywide fame. It's usually quite busy, but looking at Berlin's hunger for Middle Eastern cuisine, I'd expect people to line up here on a daily basis. Maybe it's the location - the highly trafficked and ever changing (but also never really truly gentrified) Torstraße is known for swallowing restaurants and keeping them out of sight for foot folk. In the end one thing is true: There is a lot of pretty decent Middle Eastern food in Berlin. And then there is Yarok. A place that just kicks up the quality another notch and shows everybody how things are done.
“ "In my efforts to highlight restaurants that exist in the shadows of their neighbouring matcha latte– and quinoa salad– slinging eateries, I would like to talk about the magical Syrian Imbiss, Yarok."
Yarok is Hebrew for "Green" and is meant to symbolize solidarity between people, something impressively demonstrated by the mix of staff behind the Yarok counter, ranging from Palestines to Kurds to Syrians, together cooking some of the finest Middle Eastern grub in Berlin before they put those massive plates in front of you with a big smile. Because they know how much you will enjoy the next minutes.
“ "...the other a sensationally balanced hot sauce that truly ties the whole meal together for any spice lover."
As a Yarok first-timer the choice is simple, go for a "Mix Platte", a glorious feast that will allow you to sample the widest possible spectrum of the menu at Yarok. This includes silky smooth Syrian Huomus, crispy Tabula, juicy minced beef kabab, perfectly flaky cous cous and last, but not least, two insanely delicious sauces, one a zingy lemony sauce that's packed with acidity, the other a sensationally balanced hot sauce that truly ties the whole meal together for any spice lover. Once you've eaten this you are officially initiated and you may move on to dishes like the Fatuosh bread salad or the Fuoll chickpea mix, vibrant and hard to find on other Berlin menus.
“ "Let me tell you how good this falafel is: It's f-n phenomenal, that's how good it is."
The highlight of any Yarok meal is the falafel though, where a spectacularly crunchy exterior reveals a surprisingly creamy centre that has a distinct aroma of leek and spices. Let me tell you how good this falafel is: It's f-n phenomenal, that's how good it is. The same quality thinking is applied to all the food, dishes that you will recognize from other Middle Eastern eateries in Berlin, like the fried vegetable Makali, usually kept pre-fried in glass displays looking so sad you wonder why what crime you committed to find yourself in a situation where you would actually be forced to eat that. Guess what, at Yarok the Makali is perfect, fried to order using great produce.
And that's it. The quality of the cooking and the ingredients makes the difference in a city where even the most famous Middle Eastern eateries in Berlin are know to save every cent on ingredients. The food is reasonable priced, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options and the ayran and chai are also great. Step out of Yarok and feel like you stepped out of a café in Damascus, not necessarily because they serve the exact same food but because the same love for food is practiced at Yarok.