Long-suffering fans of traditional Jewish deli caught a break in 2016 when Mamaleh’s opened in Cambridge, finally getting a quality local fix of Ashkenazi staples like corned beef and knishes and lox. The new Our Fathers Deli in Lower Allston (from the folks behind the Franklin Cafe, Citizen Public House and Tasty Burger chain) adds a worthy takeout entry to this genre: Locals can drop by all day for Reubens, roast chickens and bagels and coffee to go. But what’s happening at the adjacent Our Fathers Restaurant & Bar is rather more novel. There, chef de cuisine Jameson Poll serves up the locally-even-scarcer cuisine of modern Israel, which bolsters Central European tropes with ethnic Jewish flavors from North Africa, Iberia and the Middle East. Showering his work with fresh herbs, globe-trotting spice blends, magenta sumac and crushed nuts, Poll’s plates are rarely less than eye-catching, and his flavors are frequently sensational.
You’ll notice, for instance, that a Yemenite version of matzo ball soup ($5/$7) is brightly adorned with fresh dill, and underneath its hefty, slightly dense dumpling in a golden, murky broth is many little chunks of carrot, celery and chicken. A pastrami sandwich ($13), its generous pile of beef cut into thick oblongs, is nicely fatty, gets oomph from a cardamom/coriander crust and zippy deli mustard, and is served in extraordinarily fragrant rye bread. Things get less familiar and more compelling as Poll strays into Sephardic and Mizrahi territory. There’s much delectable grazing to be done among his small plates, many accompanied by giant rounds of a thin, irresistible flatbread with a texture that falls somewhere between pita and a gossamer crepe—fantastic for dipping into spreads like thick, tangy labne ($8) with radishes, or the superb, spice-dusted hummus that accompanies salatim ($12): three wee salads of pickled onions, French Breakfast radishes and savory grated beets.
Middle Eastern staples like chickpea-based falafel ($9), chopped Israeli salad ($9) and spinach bourekas ($12) boast pretty platings and fine accompaniments, like the three dips alongside the bourekas. Charred eggplant ($9) nestled amid eggplant chips is intriguingly dark, texturally fascinating and deeply delicious. Lamb on cinnamon sticks ($12) includes fetching accents of tehina, bright crunchy pomegranate seeds and verdant leaves of mint, but suffers from some aggressive salting. One fat, nicely charred, just-chewy tentacle of octopus ($12) sits atop smoky roasted eggplant puree, a skillful preparation of an often-abused species. Seared chicken livers ($9) bring similar outward char and inner tenderness to their bed of parsnip cream with chunks of green apple, faintly accented with raisins and walnut oil. Larger plates include entrecôte ($25), a precisely pan-roasted rib-eye atop an interesting broccoli/peanut pesto with charred broccoli rabe and a grated horseradish, making for a more piquant-than-average steak plate. Challah-wrapped cod ($22) juicily bakes a big fillet in coconut curry, somehow keeping its topside challah coating crisp for a winsome effect. Shakshuka ($14), a gorgeously smoky, chili-hot, velvety tomato/red pepper sauce in a cast-iron skillet that’s dotted with good French feta and barely-cooked eggs to swirl in, is magnificent.
The best of the sides includes tahdig ($6) like a Persian version of socarrat—the crisp bottom layer of paella—heady with the popcorn-fragrant scent of blackened turmeric, cumin and cardamom. Plancha-browned cauliflower steak ($6) offers visual drama and plenty of zip with its emerald-green kale chermoula. Desserts include a dreamy basboosa soak cake ($8), such as a square of syrupy semolina pound cake topped with excellent little wild blueberries in a puddle of crème anglaise.
Bar director Kayla Quigley builds a fascinating beverage program around 90-plus gins, using old-school cocktails and tonics to showcase them. We loved the thyme-adorned New American G&T ($12) as well as foamy classics like the Pink Lady ($13) of gin, applejack, lemon, grenadine and egg white. Non-alcoholic beverages include vivid housemade shrubs and egg creams ($5) as well as a solid assortment of beers (12 drafts, $7-$10; 7 packaged, $4-$11). A list of 31 wines ($32-$149, most under $50, many available by the glass, $9-$14) shows the Franklin Group’s neighborhood-restaurant frugality and value. For instance, we found affordable joy in both a South African pinotage from the MAN Family ($32) and the Oregon pinot noir BT Straight Shooter ($44), though vintage listings wouldn’t hurt.
With 72 seats, many in comfy banquettes, and 20 more seats at the serpentine bar, the room has the sleek, mid-mod design of a luxe Space Age diner, with its rec-room walnut paneling, Sputnik chandeliers, cubist mural and sparkly bar and tabletops. Service is uniformly friendly, and on at least one occasion impressively demonstrated Job-like patience with an unruly, chaotic family. If you’ve ever cooked from Yotam Ottolenghi or caught his 2011 BBC documentary, Jerusalem on a Plate, you might already have some sense of the extraordinarily vivid palette, the dizzyingly diverse swath of culinary traditions that Our Fathers Restaurant & Bar is drawing from. Or you could just assemble your own group of noisy friends and start eating your way through the menu. You should—there’s nothing like it in the city. ◆
Salatim and hummus
Shakshuka with egg
Basboosa soak cake
Our Fathers Restaurant & Bar, 197 N. Harvard St., Boston (617-303-0101)
ourfathersboston.com; Hours: Dinner, 5 pm-11:30 pm; Deli takeout, Mon.-Fri., 7 am-7:30 pm, Sat.-Sun., 9 am-7:30 pm; Reservations: Yes; Liquor: Full; Parking: Nearby street spaces and validated parking at garage