- 27 Nov 2023 4:48 PM
Byblos is one of the few restaurants that, in this somewhat challenging economic situation, hasn't lost customers, and in fact, half of its guests are still locals, which speaks volumes.
This isn't by chance: the menu is exciting, the dishes are unique, the prices are fair, and the portions are generous for the genre. As interest in the restaurant hasn't waned in four years, the owner, Osama Kutaini, decided to open another one on the same street – but this time, they've focused on another Eastern-rooted cuisine, Moroccan.
Moreover, Jouri is unique in its genre – there are several smaller or larger, better or less authentic units of Middle Eastern cuisine in Budapest, but the Moroccan branch of Arab cuisine is not represented – at least not on this scale and with such a vast menu.
Osama mentioned that this was one of the main reasons for choosing this cuisine for their new restaurant concept: he knows Hungarian guests who are open to new flavors, and due to the underrepresentation of Moroccan cuisine, he is certain that not only travellers but also locals will be curious about Jouri.
Upon entering Jouri, we immediately know we're in the right place – the interiors of Eastern restaurants are often a bit overwhelming for European eyes – but in Jouri, the interior and design immediately convey that "we're in Morocco," but so subtly that it maintains a sense of refinement.
This not only gives a teaser about the delicately refined Middle Eastern cuisine but also spares the casual diner from feeling underdressed if they arrive in sneakers and jeans.
The menu is clearly dominated by Moroccan cuisine dishes, but in the appetizer section, we find plenty of Middle Eastern-inspired items as well. According to Osama, this was necessary because while Moroccan cuisine is excellent, it mainly consists of meaty main courses – neither the light appetizers nor the fresh salads are their strength.
While waiting for our chosen main course, we are served two tastings: a mini-cone selection filled with hummus, muhammara, and eggplant cream, as well as a tray showcasing Moroccan delicacies with spicy pepper cream, spicy olive, salty lemon, and various sweet dried fruits.
The salad section contains plenty of local ingredients, for instance the paprika tomato salad is spiced up with a spicy Moroccan cream, and the moutabal zaalouk arrives with eggplant, making it more satisfying than a simple cream.
The warm appetizers, in terms of size, could easily pass as main courses, for example, the Moroccan merguez arrives in a thick, spicy, warming tomato sauce, perfect for dipping with pita bread, and the shrimp briouat consists of four sizable, spring roll-like stuffed phyllo pastries with a creamy mango sauce.
Among the soups, the harira is a must, not only because it's a staple in Moroccan cuisine but also because the uniquely spiced, chickpea soup is perfect for chilly autumn days. If we then try a Casablanca salad, we'll experience an authentic Moroccan feast – even though the second course is born in their kitchen, its ingredients represent the essence of Moroccan cuisine.
However, if we're interested in the true essence of Moroccan cuisine, we should choose from the tagines. The meaty stew cooked in a glazed Moroccan clay pot is a true Eastern flavor explosion.
For instance, the veal tagine is cinnamon-flavored, sweet, rich in taste, a dense, juicy one-dish meal with tender veal and caramelized figs. It's a hearty, creamy, wintery dish, perfect for a first date with Moroccan cuisine. Representing something completely different is the kefta tagine, a tomato-based, meatball dish that follows a spicier, zestier, fresher line, and the baked eggs within somewhat resemble shakshuka.
Finally, there are couscous dishes: the coarse, ground, unrefined durum wheat not only serves as a side dish but also represents a category of food itself:
A meaty, vegetable one-dish meal prepared with it. We tasted a seasonal vegetable, chicken, saffron-infused version – much milder than the tagine, homier, simpler, yet a very traditional piece.
Apart from these, Jouri offers excellent signature cocktails that not only complement the dishes perfectly but are also very creative. And if we desire something more relaxed, we can taste not only French or Hungarian but Moroccan wines as well.
If we want to stick to a budget, it's worth visiting them during the day on Semmelweis Street because they already offer a special priced lunch menu, but if we take a look at the menu, you'll surely want to come back in the evening – whether for a date or a friendly gathering, Jouri will make your evening special.
1052 Budapest, Semmelweis u. 4.
06 30 324 5271
Original article published in Hungarian on Welovebudapest.com