I’m really not sure how many restaurant reviews I’ve written since competing regularly in the @foodfightfriday kitchen. Then, just last week, I was introduced to @tasteem—a dapp dedicated to restaurant reviews with several weekly contests and prizes like this one called Your Weekly Choice. Thank you, @anggreklestari! On that note, I hope you’re hungry #food lovers, here comes my first ever restaurant review using tasteem.io—it’s a Middle Eastern restaurant in The UK called...
We’re all familiar with restaurants that serve chips and salsa or bread, biscuits, etc. something to munch on while you await your entrée, right? At Bab Tooma, they serve you a bowl of hot lentil soup and, like each item on the dinner menu, the recipe is a family original passed down from generation to generation—lentil soup:
Falafel—ground, rolled, gluten free chickpeas, seasoned and deep fried to perfection served with shredded lettuce, sliced pickles, and a side of tzatziki:
Did I mention how delicious everything smells inside the restaurant? The open kitchen is separated from the dining area by a charcoal grill and, as the chef continues grilling, flipping and glazing various skewers and kebobs, the aroma is definitely worth noting—the kitchen view from our table:
Grilled vegetable skewer—mixed bell peppers, zucchini, onion, mushroom and tomato with a pomegranate glaze. Green beans seasoned just right and served chilled rather than hot like I’m accustom to—they paired nicely with the grilled vegetables:
Mujaddara—arguably my favorite dish of the evening. It was my first time ordering mujaddara but definitely won’t be the last. The dish consists of cooked lentils together with rice and vermicelli, garnished with crispy, sautéed onions, served with sliced pickles, a spicy red pepper sauce and a citrusy yogurt.
We also enjoyed a fattoush salad. Although I didn’t get a close-up of it, it’s pictured in the center of the table I showed you for our main spread—the fattoush salad is served with radishes, cucumber, olives, tomato and mint, chopped and mixed together, with crispy flat bread and romaine lettuce. This particular fattoush is topped with a layer of pomegranate seeds. Also, I told you the majuddara was ‘arguably my favorite dish’ because it’s a tough decision between it and this red dipping sauce we used to dip our falafel and pita bread in called muhammara—delicious! It’s a spicy red purée made with grilled red and green peppers crushed with tahini, bread crumbs, almonds, and garlic—muhammara and fattoush salad:
Right about the time we finished gorging ourselves, leaving nothing on the table, is when the music began playing. Authentic Arabic music is performed on Sunday and Monday nights, beginning at 19:00, sung through a nice PA and played on a lute—a 12 string instrument comparable to a guitar or banjo.
What’s an evening of delicious Middle Eastern cuisine while listening to authentic Arabic music without a fresh kettle of hot, Arabic tea flavored nicely with mint and cardamom? Cheers!
And you know what? Although this restaurant review could be finished about now, it’s not, those of you who are only interested in the food review, this is your queue to sign off, I hope you enjoyed this article—I give Bab Tooma five stars and it’s number one on my recommendation list if you’re in the West Yorkshire area of England—enjoy! However, for those of you interested in my favorite part, the part I didn’t anticipate, don’t go anywhere, this is when the evening got particularly interesting. Aannnnd...
As we sipped our hot tea and listened to the gentleman singing “hymns and haw’s” while plucking the lute, Qusay, the owner of the restaurant, approached our table and asked if we’d mind if he joined us. We said “absolutely not—please do!” He pulled up a chair.
The young 32 year old Syrian native migrated to England seeking refuge seven years ago at age 25, all by himself, with nothing but an old Nokia flip phone, the clothes on his back, a small amount of cash given to him by his older brother, and a student visa—he didn’t have internet or navigation or anything. He explained how he walked in circles upon exiting the plane in England, having studied English in school but understandably vague to the language and no smart phone to guide him to the university. Once finally locating the school, he was assigned housing, put the pen to paper and didn’t lift his eyes from the text book as he attended school up to eight hours a day, five days a week, until he graduated with a masters in business all while working an eight hour shift at a local petrol station where he started as a cashier and worked his way into management. I found this picture of Qusay on Tripadvsior—that’s him on the right with his business partner, Eyad, the gentleman in the middle.
I asked him what Bab Tooma meant, whether or not it was Arabic and how it translates to English. His restaurant, Bab Tooma, is named after Babtouma or, Bab Tuma, which is named after Saint Thomas the Apostle, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, is a city located just outside Demascus, the capitol of Syria.
He hung out with us for quite awhile, the three of us learned quite a bit from each other in the three hours Pura and I spent there. He helped us understand why all of the conflict, death and carnage, in the name of religion, is currently taking place in his home country where he hopes to be able to return some day having not seen his family going on eight years though he speaks to his mother on the phone, at minimum, once every day and hasn’t missed a day of conversation with her since arriving in England in 2012. We, in turn, described what it’s like growing up in The United States, myself in the Los Angeles area and my wife in San Francisco. What a difference in comparison, “worlds apart” is an understatement—he’s equally fascinated by our knowledge and idea of ‘normal’ as we are his. It never fails—once Pura and I divulge to people we’re having conversation with that we’re from California we can instantly see the wheels begin turning in their mind.
Before the night was over, he offered to tour both Pura and myself around the surrounding area so we can get a perspective of North Yorkshire from a ‘locals’ point of view and even offered to take us to an outlet mall with affordable department stores 30 miles away—we’re doing that tomorrow. Neither she or I have adequate attire for this sub 60 degree weather they call “summer.”
Just before we left and, prior to walking out the door, he got my attention one last time to ask me if I like baklava. I told him I’m not much of a dessert eater but Pura is to which he responded, “wait here, let me bring each of you a piece—it’s the best baklava you’ll ever have in your #life.” Who can say no to that, right?! “Deal!” We sat back down and, well, along with our entire conversation that evening, he was genuine when he said the best—the best baklava I’ve ever had in my life made with filo dough, honey, ground pistachios and whatever other heavenly goodness they put in there:
Those of you in the West Yorkshire area of England or, if you’re planning on visiting here some time, don’t forget to make a trip to Bradford. Stop by Bab Tooma and prepare to have a meal so delicious you end up #writing a novel-sized article about it on Tasteem.
18 Wilton St, Bradford BD5 0BQ, UK
This post participated in the Tasteem contest Your weekly choice