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963 Refined Levantine cuisine in Charlottenburg

Tuesday, April 18 2023
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Opening Times

Monday to Saturday 17-23

Address

963
Osnabrücker Straße 7
10589 Berlin-Charlottenburg
.How to get there

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Ribal actually wanted to open a purely Arabic restaurant. Born in the USA with Syrian roots, Ribal lived in the Gulf States for many years. Then, a year ago, he came to Berlin from Saudi Arabia with his family to get involved in Berlin's diverse gastronomic scene. Once here, he noticed the gastronomy division by country cuisines, which are all included in Levantine cuisine.

Israeli cuisine, he says, is known for mezze, Syrian people think of stews, Lebanese people think of grilled food, while Arabic cuisine focuses on falafel. Instead, Ribal wants to unite people through food, and so the 963 restaurant became a Levantine one, where only the name refers to a single country: Syria, whose country code is 963 and through which Ribal always called his grandparents in the country of his roots.

In other respects, too, the restaurant goes without clichés and concentrates on transnational themes. The interior is modern. Light, subtle colours are paired with a few selected pictures. There are no traditional decorations. Instead, pleasant instrumental music plays in the background, covers of pop songs with oriental instruments.

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963 Restaurant I Team

Over a Safer Sex on the Beach and a Virgin Piña Colada, the liquor licence doesn't come until mid-May, so we study the menu. With a large selection of starters, we dine tapas-style at 963 Restaurant, while the hot dishes are also sufficient for individual plates. But sharing is much more fun.

So we start with a selection of starters, which are actually already generously portioned. First, there is something to look at: The Levantine Fattoush Salad (9 euros) is surrounded by a shell of crispy-fried flatbread, which is cracked and mixed in front of us. The freshness of the salad and the crispiness of the flatbread are a successful combination.

Crunchy continues with the Crunchy Beetroot Labneh (9.50 euros): Strained yoghurt is garnished with beetroot, crunchy bread, walnut and sumac and tastes just as fresh and exciting as the fried aubergine on beetroot hummus, garnished with tahini and of course the ubiquitous pomegranate seeds (9.50 euros).

Heartier highlights, meanwhile, are the Musakhan Popsicles, chicken-filled dough rolls on a stick (8.50 euros), and the Shrimp Kunafa, shrimp wrapped in crispy, delicate filo pastry with a fruity lemon sauce (10 euros). Actually already full and happy, we can't help but try the main courses of the 963 restaurant. After all, we are not here for pleasure.

Mama's Fingerburner (15 euros), a dish by Ribal's mother, turns out to be a juicy lentil stew with onions, pomegranate seeds, crispy and soft batter, fried coriander and pomegranate molasses. A delightful blend of flavours. In contrast, and with another little showstopper, Ribal serves us Pekaboo Aubergine (21 euros), a spiced rice pot in which the main ingredient, aubergine, is complemented by tender lamb and tomato, which is then gently knocked out of its shape.

Service is friendly, and Ribal is happy to devote personal attention to his guests to explain his concept or dishes. Then, activating the dessert stomach, we turn to little finger foods: the Balls of Bliss (8 euros) are balls of cheese dough flavoured with orange blossom water, filled with mascarpone and garnished with pistachios. The Ultimate Kunafa (8 euros), on the other hand, is a sweetened filo pastry filled with cheese.

Ribal explains his further kitchen plans, in which elements from the cuisine of his homeland, the USA, will enter into a fusion with Levantine dishes. It's genuinely a liaison you wouldn't expect, so it's still exciting at the 963 restaurant!

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