Berlin, Germany (Gastrosofie). Well, crazy idea, of course – what a crackpot. Don’t do it, wont work,, they had all told Oz Ben David, given good advice. Humus and falafel: not here in Berlin. There is one at almost every street corner – and a lot cheaper. But surely never in this quality, says the owner, who grew up in a kibbutz. The owner of the Canaan wants to bring his guests closer to Israeli specialties with an oriental focus, authentically and lovingly prepared, like once by his grandmother. He has been at it for six years, now in the epicentre of fashionable Prenzlauer Berg, near Helmholtzplatz, with his Palestinian partner. Obviously things are going well, even during Corona, as seats in the stylishly decorated rooms are almost all taken.
The secret of his success is revealed by one of the friendly service. She comes up with a tray that bulges beneath the many plates and bowls. Marvellous Mezze: those starters heralding the main dishes in the Orient. Everything is fresh, everything is homemade, and most of the ingredients come from regional producers – like goat cheese that adorns the oriental tomato and cucumber salad with a lime and pomegranate dressing, as crisp as the pickled vegetables. In addition she presents us three kinds of bread: Israeli pita, plus Kurdish bread and locally made Kaiser bread. The latter, however, modified oriental, with olive oil and Arabic spices.
And in case you think you are familiar with falafel, the popular snack plays in a completely different league here. The two deep-fried chickpea bales taste so much fresher and at the same time more flavourful, to which plenty of herbs give an intense shade of green. Also perfect the humus with whole chickpeas, enriched with a very spicy garlic-lime sauce. “The Palestinian variant,” says the owner. The Israeli counterpart comes as a main course, with a poached egg. It tastes nuttier, the consistency is creamier – spices, especially garlic, were used far more sparingly here. Humus is – as it happens to be – not always the same as humus.
The stuffed vegetables, another main course, were also great stuff. But there is by no means minced meat inside of tomato and onion, although it tastes the same – rather a mixture of soy, Egyptian rice and eight different spices. The Canaan is strictly vegetarian, but ardent meat adherents should also be satisfied with this filling. To go with it, a fruity pomegranate sauce and Malawach, the Yemeni-Jewish pancakes, made on a puff pastry base.
Wonderful tasty specialities – and accompanied by two lovely wines. Nuance is the name of the Lebanese rosé from the Bekaa Valley, Chateau Ksara winery label: a blend of Malbec, Marselan and Vermentino, with a fresh, fruity note of melon, peach and pear. The second rose, Sunset, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Syrah comes from the same producer. Dry and soft at the same time, said to be due to the ripening in natural cave cellars, which were founded by Jesuits in 1857 and extend over two kilometres.
The desserts are also worthwhile. For example the panna cotta, which was refined with coconut. In addition, an Arabic coffee in a glass, which is a real eye-catcher with its artistic ornaments.
The owner affirmed that this place is more than just a restaurant – namely a place of encounter, togetherness, tolerance. No matter what nationality, religion or sexual orientation. Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt work in the kitchen. The waitress from Croatia is transsexual; Oz himself is gay. “I am humus-sexual” is the outspoken statement on his t-shirt. Well said!
His grandmother had survived the Holocaust, and there was only one place for the restaurateur to do his job: Berlin, former capital of the Third Reich – and the place where the extermination of the Jews was decided. His grandmother had given him her blessing. Only one secret recipe, she told her grandson: Don’t dish it out to them. Time will tell. Anyway, we’ll come again. It’s so great as it is.
Adress: Schliemannstraße 15, D-10437 Berlin, Germany
Phone: 01590 – 134 80 77
Opening times: Wednesday and Thursday from 6 pm to 10 pm, Friday to Sunday from noon to 10 pm
Christopher Prescott based on a text by Fritz Hermann Köser.