My lifelong love of Syrian cuisine

Liyakun Ta’amak min Ajwad al Ta’am

Arab proverb: “Let your food be the best of food.”

My name is Ahmad Yasin and I am dedicated to offering food that is high quality and generous in flavor.

My first restaurant won acclaim from culinary professionals and press alike. Boston Magazine awarded Kareem Best of Boston 1993 and Best Middle Eastern Restaurant in 1995. Boston Globe reviews called my food “artfully prepared.” New England Monthly applauded my “culinary integrity.” I was awarded Zagat’s Certificate of Distinction in 1999.

Since the age of 12, I have delighted in inviting my friends to eat my family’s food, and my friends have admired my presentation and art of blending herbs. I came to Boston to study pharmacology at Northeastern University, but here, as in Syria, I invited friends home to my meals; my American friends encouraged me to open a restaurant to share my passion for the art of food with everyone.

My grandmother and mother prepared meals handed down by generations past; this culinary legacy inspires me every time I eat or cook. Both sides of my family had a love for farming and providing our table with the finest vegetables and fruits.

My dad taught us to eat for pleasure, and that both intellectually and spiritually food can be understood as a work of art. I learned to cook watching my mom prepare the food, and of course eating it over and over. A cuisine cannot be created in the kitchen if it’s not desired at the table.

The philosophy of Arabic cuisine

Sharing our meals should be a joyful act. For me, sharing my food with few friends is delightful and very relaxing. Both food and people should always be interesting; The Arab scholar al-Tabari (923) was impeccable and elegant while dining: “kana ajmala l-jama-ati aklan wa azrafhum ishratan” (“We ate the finest food among the great nations and we were the nicest companions among them.”) The famous and lavish banquet of the Abbassiyya dynasty dated from the eighth century till the eleventh century. The history of the table of a nation is a reflection of the civilization of that nation.

A cuisine evolves through testing and tasting the same recipes for many generations and through the transferring of knowledge from master to apprentice, father and mother to son and daughter.

A cuisine exists when people are eating for pleasure, intellectually, or spiritually, and might relate to work of art. A cuisine exists where there is generosity and a people who love to welcome guests and entertain at home.

A cuisine exists where the chef in the kitchen understands the importance of fine ingredients and uses only the freshest. As a result, they produce elegant and delicious recipes and perhaps gain what Arabs call “al-nafas,” an expression that means “the touch,” used to refer to a cook who is a master of attaining the right taste or discerning taste.