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Baraka Cafe, Cambridge, MA: North Africa Comes Home

From Drop Box

A Touch of North Africa in Cambridge: Baraka Cafe

Baraka Cafe at 80 1/2 Pearl Street in Cambridge, is a moderate walk from Central Square and Harvard Square but a very long way from home.
If this is as close to North Africa as most people get, they should consider themselves very lucky.
Baraka is small, it seats about twenty.
The walls are exposed brick, artfully dressed with selected scenes from North African desert life.

Owner Alia Meddeb and chef Karim Dahim pretty much greet every patron with an élan unmatched by most proprietors. In fact, Alia, sporting a new hijab in deference to her new-found commitment to Islam, is sometimes overwhelmingly effusive. But that’s not necessarily bad in these days of pasted smiles and measured maitre d’ greetings.

But if the atmosphere is upbeat and friendly, the food is a perfect blend of Mediterranean colors and spices with French accents.

I would start with Bendenjal Mechoui which is an Algerian classic of smoky eggplant with roasted peppers, garlic, parsley, olive oil and topped with a kind of thickened yogurt..

Not surprisingly, they make the best Couscous in town, but the M’katef (mm’katef) is a rare treat.
This is a pure North African dish of lamb marinated in a medley of spices and served as an Arab almond tartlet layered in sweet saffron shallots, mint sauce and leeks and spinach.

While not extensive, the menu’s offerings are vivid.
Baraka takes risks with its culinary combinations and seasonings, and any visit is a cultural and palate-expanding experience.
No credit cards.
No alcohol.

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