There is one place in Akko that you are sure to have regular reveries about, long after you return home from Israel. The fish restaurant Uri Buri sits next to the port, in a crumbling Ottoman stone building with high, vaulted ceilings. Each dish at Uri Buri relies on the daily catch and the offerings at the nearby market. Flavors seem to be enhanced when dishes are presented beautifully—but without too much primping—as they are here. While chef Uri Jeremias creates many elaborate dishes with great flair, he clearly likes simplicity best: fresh anchovies, grilled with just a touch of potent olive oil; barramundi pan-cooked in butter with a few sage leaves and a squeeze of lemon; raw crabmeat, carefully removed from its shell and served without any garnish whatsoever.
Although the restaurant of course has a menu, Uri’s preference is to speak to his guests and get to know them a little—what they like and don’t—and then send out dish after dish from the kitchen, prescribing and building an evening’s experience for them, generally moving from the lightest flavors to the richest. Many of Uri’s dishes draw on his imagination—paper-thin sashimi with an explosive green wasabi sorbet; sea-wolf with chestnut-pumpkin purée; baby tilapia (known here as musht, or St. Peter’s fish) on cubes of red beet and caramel; a dreamy seafood-and-coconut-milk soup laced with ginger, curry, basil, and cilantro—the list goes on.
Making a comprehensive listing of The Great Restaurants of Israel would be like trying to grasp the tail of a beautiful bird in flight. The point we want to make here is that Israel has come to a new understanding about food, offering the best of its many hybrid culinary traditions and—in the hands of great talents like Uri Jeremias, Duhul Safdi, Rama Ben-Zvi, Erez Komarovsky, and others—brilliant gastronomic innovation.