My Ottolenghi Adventure

Delectible dishes on display at Yotam Ottolenghi’s flagship shop in London.

I don’t tend to plan the heck out of vacations, because when we travel as a family we like to pretend we’re natives. We prefer apartments to hotels and we quickly master the public transportation system, if there is one.

Having said that, I went online and reserved a table at NOPI the second I’d booked our flight to London, because while most people have a list of destinations they want to hit in any given place — museums, historical monuments or whetever — I have a list of restaurants and food markets. Heading to London, I dreamed of all things .

Our flat was located in the Notting Hill neighborhood, where Yotam Ottolenghi opened his first “deli” in 2002. We actually stumbled upon it unexpectedly, on a walk from our flat to the open-air market on Portobello Road. The shop is long and narrow, with a counter up front and one communal table down a couple of steps in the back. They don’t take reservations, or have a loo, but never mind, because all the food is available for take-out. The savory dishes looked incredible, but it was the dessert selection in the window that really caught my boys’ attention.

On Wednesday night we ate at NOPI, Ottolenghi’s high-end eatery. The restaurant has white-painted brick walls and a more laid back feel than I’d expected. The service couldn’t have been friendlier or the food more delicious.

For my main course, I ordered tuna, which was coated in a berbere spice blend (a typical Ethiopian mix of garlic, chilis, ginger, fenugreek and other spices) and seared, served with a bagna caudo and a black garlic sauce. We shared polenta “chips” (read: fries) which were dusted with Parmesan and served with a garlic aioli.

Here I am at our table with my younger son, Teddy.

The open kitchen is on the lower floor of the restaurant, and diners at two large, communal tables have a great perch from which to observe all the culinary action.

We got home from London Saturday night. Sunday I pulled out my “Ottolenghi” cookbook (you won’t be surprised to learn that I own them all) and made an easy and delicious rack of lamb marinated in a blend of fresh herbs, honey and garlic, which a London friend had made and recommended. While the meat cooks, the marinade simmers, turning into a fabulous sauce that’s served on the side. I happened to have three large sweet potatoes on hand, so I went to the book’s index to see if there was a recipe. There were two. I settled on a simple dish of roasted sweet potatoes with pecans and maple syrup.

Such a perfect springtime Sunday dinner. I’ll try to post the recipes soon. And I can’t wait to get back to London.

Liza Schoenfein is food editor of the Forward. Find her on Twitter @LifeDeathDinner

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