Life has Returned to the Kitchen at Arugula Mediterranean Bistro – We-Ha


Arugula Mediterranean Bistro reopened for dinner and late night time eating on Might 19, and proprietor Christiane Gehami speaks about why she closed the restaurant in January, and the adjustments which have been made.

Inside of newly-renovated Arugula Mediterranean Bistro. 953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

By Tracey Weiss

Ronni Newton contributed to this story

Christiane Gehami has formally outlived the flooring at her restaurant, Arugula Mediterranean Bistro.

“It’s stored me from gaining weight. I had to ensure I didn’t fall via,” she joked.

“Once we first constructed out the restaurant 24 years in the past, I don’t assume the architect realized we have been in it for the lengthy haul. The constructing is previous already, then all of a sudden, we’re in 12 months 25.”

It’s why proprietor/chef Gehami and her co-chef Mike Kask determined to shut the restaurant in January and get the flooring redone. Arugula was initially scheduled to re-open within the first two weeks of February, not solely with new flooring however some contemporary paint, a couple of new gadgets on the menu and a small bar.

The restaurant closed for the work on the ground, however then kitchen gear was ruined. And whereas taking it out, the flooring within the eating room have been broken so these needed to be redone as effectively.

“I at all times wished a tin ceiling, and a bar, and chandeliers,” Gehami mentioned.

She considers Arugula her “child,” and now … “She’s graduated faculty. She’s in her first condo in New York Metropolis,” she mentioned. Arugula has stepped out of her period of carrying her buckled footwear.

Arugula reopened Might 19.

From the wall remedies, to the framed pictures – a lot of Gehami’s household and childhood – to that tin ceiling and the lighting, the area has a singular and distinctly European vibe.

Inside of newly-renovated Arugula Mediterranean Bistro. 953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Arugula Mediterranean Bistro now has a bar. 953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Gehami and her staff – which additionally consists of Mixologist Shari Warbelow and Steve Reynolds, who does analysis and improvement – are enthusiastic about seeing the return of al fresco eating on her patio this spring and shortly providing brunch on Saturdays and Sundays once more. That’s brunch with Gehami’s freshly-baked baskets of breads, scones, crepes and do-it-yourself butters. All the meals, like the remainder of her menu, can be created from scratch.

Out of doors eating area at Arugula Mediterranean Bistro. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Along with the patio, there can even be expanded out of doors eating within the alley subsequent to the restaurant, Gehami mentioned.

Standard gadgets on the restaurant’s Center Jap menu embrace the nice and cozy roasted eggplant & wonton “Napoleon,” pumpkin squash and cheese raviolis in brown butter, the sampler platter of hummus, mohamara, and labani (home made yogurt cheese) served with grilled pita, and Israeli Couscous, made with or with out rooster confit and piled excessive with greens in a curry French dressing.

Israeli Couscous from Arugula consists of housemade rooster confit, mushrooms, zucchini, purple peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach, in a light-weight curry French dressing. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

“We do flatbreads, too,” Gehami mentioned. “We’ve been doing them since earlier than anybody else knew what they have been.”

Flatbreads at Arugula Mediterranean Bistro. Picture credit score: Tracey Weiss

New to the dinner menu are pastas, and there’s additionally a late night bar menu of apps and burgers provided from 9/11 p.m. The brand new bar has led to the addition of some new cocktails as effectively, with a “botanical” theme, Gehami mentioned.

Desserts, too, are on the menu’s most wished checklist. Gehami makes the entire desserts, which embrace all the things from a lemon-curd stuffed butter cake, frosted with a lemon-coconut whipped cream and garnished with berry compote to a root beer float and Affogato, vanilla ice cream “drowned” with a shot of espresso, garnished with chocolate-covered espresso beans and toasted hazelnuts.

Arugula Mediterranean Bistro has been serving Lavazza Espresso (proven right here with lemon cake, frosted with a lemon-coconut whipped cream and garnished with berry compote). Courtesy of Arugula Mediterranean Bistro

Arugula is open Wednesday via Sunday. The bar opens at 4 p.m. and dinner is served starting at 5:30 p.m. She’s planning to deliver again lunch on Thursday and Friday in addition to brunch on Saturday and Sunday, however will keep closed for Monday and Tuesday. “You want your personal life,” Gehami mentioned, and this offers workers consistency of their schedules.

All workers, she mentioned, are totally vaccinated. It was a situation of rent.

Sangria with a sprig of mint and bread with olive oil for dipping to begin the expertise at Arugula. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

The primary course

It was after being let go from a previous job in April 1996 that Gehami and Kask opened Arugula, named after Gehami’s favourite inexperienced, behind an artwork gallery. “It had six seats,” she mentioned.

Lower than two years later, she shut all the way down to renovate the area and the restaurant re-opened with an open flooring plan and 50 seats.

She and Kask “cut up all the things down the center,” she mentioned. “He did the butchering and the sauces, and I did the desserts and the menu and the marinades.”

It wasn’t till she was in her early 30s that Gehami realized she wished to prepare dinner for a dwelling.

“I used to be born in Egypt,” she mentioned. “My dad was an engineer and all of a sudden, [Gamal Abdel] Nassir and [John F.] Kennedy made a deal and so they allow us to out of Egypt. It was 1962 and I used to be 5. First we went to Lebanon for 9 months after which we moved to Brooklyn.”

From there they got here to Connecticut, dwelling in Wallingford and Hartford earlier than settling in Glastonbury. “I grew up in Glastonbury,” she mentioned.

“We at all times knew English, however French is my first language – I majored in French literature in faculty – and I knew Arabic and Italian. Once we left the entire household left, and moved to France, Brazil, and Italy.”

Rising up, “I at all times favored to eat,” she mentioned, “however I solely favored my mother’s meals. We didn’t eat out, ever. The concept of going out to eat by no means even entered my mind. It was the Sixties too. We might get pizza now and again and that was a feast.

“I used to be a authorized secretary after which a paralegal. After I met my husband, he was an actuarial scholar. We might exit and sit at a bar and eat French fries. I’d by no means finished that earlier than. To at the present time, I like to take a seat at bars and eat. I would like enjoyable meals.

“I by no means cooked, so [before getting married] I frolicked with my mom studying. My mother’s a wonderful prepare dinner. She made Lebanese and Egyptian meals. She taught me learn how to marry flavors. That’s what cooking is.”

Gehami divorced three years later, however studying learn how to prepare dinner for her marriage had incited her ardour for it. “I enrolled at MCC culinary program and went to work for Hop Brook Restaurant after which the Bee and Thistle Inn, then I labored within the kitchens at Aetna,” earlier than opening up Arugula.

Gehami needs to dispel one delusion about her bistro. “Folks assume that is an intimate, romantic place. We maintain events on this area. Due to COVID, the quantity was restricted to 25 folks however underneath regular situations the restaurant can maintain as much as 50.

“It’s actually only a snug bistro. It’s like going to your favourite aunt’s home. Everyone seems to be welcome, and of their comfiest garments. Who am I to inform anybody what to put on? It’s what a bistro must be.”

One factor that everybody does know is how a lot she loves Arugula. “I’ve had my staff with me ceaselessly and I really like what I do.”

Inside of newly-renovated Arugula Mediterranean Bistro. 953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton


Christiane Gehami answered a collection of “LIFE within the Kitchen” questions posed by Tracey Weiss with knowledge and wit.

Q: What’s your favourite meals?

A: Donuts! I by no means had any rising up. I used to be a tennis participant in highschool. We have been at a sports activities banquet and there was a desk stuffed with issues. I didn’t know what they have been. I should have eaten 100. After that, each Sunday I couldn’t wait to depart church to go get them. I really like the donuts at Elmwood Pastry and King Donuts [in Newington]. They’re out of this world.

Q: What’s your least favourite meals?

A: Pork. I cannot eat pork.

Q: What’s the one factor {that a} budding chef ought to know?

A: Learn how to preserve their mouths shut. Pay attention. You don’t go to work in a kitchen and speak about what you discovered at school.

Q: Do you may have a favourite chef?

A: Barbara Lynch. She has #9 Park and a bunch of eating places in Boston. I really like the best way she thinks.

Q: What’s your favourite cookbook?

A: I grew up with no cookbooks; now I’ve about 3,000. After I first began cooking, I cherished Claudia Rodin. I really like Rose Water & Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood.

Q: What herb or spice greatest describes your persona?

A: Za’atar. It’s the one factor that may one thing bland into one thing scrumptious. Toast an English muffin, soften some Muenster cheese and put a boiled egg and a few Za’atar on it and also you’re in heaven.

Q: It’s your final meal on earth. What’s in your plate?

A: Ful medames [A stew of seasoned fava beans that is a staple food in Gehami’s native Egypt] with a heat pita and a salad of tomatoes and cucumber. And a few donuts and a black espresso!

Manousha (pita painted with za’atar, baked and served with a purple onion, tomato and cucumber salad, yogurt-cucumber dipping sauce) from Arugula. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Inside of newly-renovated Arugula Mediterranean Bistro. 953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Korean Fried Cauliflower from Arugula. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Quinoa, roasted potato, and beet bowl at Arugula consists of roasted mushrooms, beets, artichoke hearts, inexperienced beans, roasted potatoes, purple onions, quinoa, and spinach. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Inside of newly-renovated Arugula Mediterranean Bistro. 953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Inside of newly-renovated Arugula Mediterranean Bistro. 953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Picture credit score: Ronni Newton

Hummus, Mohamara, Labani (home made yogurt cheese) and grilled pita. Courtesy of Arugula Mediterranean Bistro

Butternut squash ravioli wearing brown-butter-sage and completed with toasted hazelnuts, arugula, cubed roasted butternut squash and parmesan Courtesy of Arugula Mediterranean Bistro

The Heat-Roasted Eggplant and Wonton Napoleon additionally has candy purple onions, tomatoes, feta, watercress and hummus served in a light-weight curry French dressing . Courtesy of Arugula Mediterranean Bistro

Seared sushi-grade ahi tuna on a mattress of coriander-scented sautéed child spinach and oven roasted tomatoes, completed with a sesame-ginger glaze. Courtesy of Arugula Mediterranean Bistro

Picture credit score: Tracey Weiss

Picture credit score: Tracey Weiss

Picture credit score: Tracey Weiss

A model of this story first appeared within the February 2021 concern of West Hartford LIFE.

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