Behind Onza’s contemporary Ottoman cuisine stand two talented young chefs from the Tel Aviv culinary scene – Arik Darhani and Muli Magriso. Arik first experienced Turkish cuisine while cooking at Tikka. From there, he moved to Mul Yam so he could gain serious training in a top-notch kitchen, and then to the Yaffo-Tel Aviv restaurant, where he was introduced to more traditional fare and unrefined ingredients. While at Yaffo-Tel Aviv he met Muli, who has a Turkish background and brings his love of Ottoman cuisine to the kitchen. Muli’s deepest desire is to give the flavors he was raised on a contemporary twist and expertly pair them with the seafood and meat from Yaffo-Tel Aviv and the &samhoud places restaurant in Amsterdam.
“When we ran into each other in the Yaffo-Tel Aviv kitchen, we clicked instantly,” Arik recalls.
Together, they founded Soul Kitchen, providing haute catering services for affluent clientele; but after a while they had the brilliant idea to make their cooking more accessible to others. “When we began discussing changing directions, we immediately thought about putting a modern spin on authentic Ottoman cuisine,” Arik says. “It was such a natural progression for us – Muli grew up with these flavors and dishes, but everyone in Israel has been exposed in some way or another to the legacy of the Ottoman Empire and the basic ingredients, spices, recipes and culinary secrets the Ottomans brought from Egypt in the south, Turkey in the north, the Balkans to the west, and Iran and Iraq to the east. There are so many influences in Ottoman cuisine that we spent a year researching it. We had no idea just how complex, diverse, and full of potential this cooking style was. These recipes and cooking techniques had been passed down for generations, with each meal requiring hours of preparation, where even the smallest details need to be intensely scrutinized in order to achieve perfection – it’s an amazing challenge, an art form unlike anything we’d experienced before.”
Armed with this in-depth knowledge of contemporary Ottoman-inspired cuisine, in the fall of 2015 Arik and Muli began their contemporary Turkish Arab experiment with Onza. This project exceeded everyone’s expectations and resulted in the two entering a successful partnership. “After spending many years in top kitchens, we both understood that a restaurant’s entertainment is an essential part of the whole package: the music, the wine, the plating, the presentation, and service all need to complement one another flawlessly. When traditional, authentically-prepared food made from the best ingredients is placed in the spotlight, people feel that they are being transported to that time and season. They’re on a culinary journey to other places and cultures, and it fills us with pride to see them enjoy this complete experience.”