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26/08/2017 - 07:00hs

Lebanese descendent opens Arab burger restaurant

Souk Burger went into business last June in São Paulo’s Pinheiros neighborhood. Kibbeh, kofta and baba ghanoush hamburgers are accompanied by other typical Arab items.

André Barros/ANBA

Tarik Bechara Leal is of Lebanese descent

São Paulo – Hamburgers made of kibbeh, kofta, lamb, and even baba ghanoush are on the menu at Souk Burger, the first Arab burger restaurant in São Paulo, open since June in the neighborhood Pinheiros. The brainchild of Tarik Bechara Leal, a third-generation Lebanese descendent, the place serves up traditional Arab cuisine items in sandwich format.

Arab protein dishes turned to hamburger. The spices, like tahini and zaatar, were worked into mayonnaise. Other staple ingredients, like dry curd and tabbouleh, are part of Souk Burger’s sandwich fillings. Even the desserts are Arab-inspired, like the pistachio pudding, a hit among patrons.

“I often say Arab cuisine is ‘sandwichable.’ The dishes include bread, a protein and a paste. That got me thinking: why not make that into hamburgers?”, says Leal, a business administrator who had no background in food service prior to opening the restaurant. “But I always wanted to run my own business, and had this concept of an Arab food place,” he notes.


The Babaganoo is based around the Arab eggplant paste

 Working towards his goal and drawing inspiration from the recipes that his aunt Magui used to cook for family gettogethers, Leal enrolled in a course in basic cooking techniques at the National Service For Commercial Education (Senac). The plan was to channel these techniques and the knowledge accrued in his formative years and then go into business with his Arab restaurant.

But as the course progressed, he got in touch with several people who planned on opening burger joints, a trendy line of business in São Paulo right now. This got him thinking, and after completing the course, he had the insight of combining burgers and Arab food. “I wanted something out of the ordinary,” says the Lebanese descendent.

He then came up with sandwiches like the eponymous Souk Burger (kibbeh burger with caramelized onions, tabbouleh and tahini mayo in cardamom brioche), the Middle East (kofta burger with red onion, dry curd, Prato-type cheese, and lettuce in cardamom brioche), and the vegetarian option Babaganoo (a burger made of baba ghanoush, the eggplant paste, with tomato confit, crispy leeks, goat cheese cream and lettuce in Australian bread).


The Middle East features kofta and dry curd

“In developing the sandwiches and the menu, I had help from advisor Cássio Prados, who was my teacher in the Senac course,” Leal recalls. Desserts include atayef, the traditional Arab nut-based delicacy, redubbed as Toife da Magui (Magui’s Atayef) in honor of his aunt. Even the drinks have an Arab twist to them: all are made from arak.

Leal is pleased with the turnout in these first few months – he has even welcomed Arab customers, who make a point of speaking to the creator of this unheard-of burger joint: “I did plenty of research and couldn’t find a similar concept anywhere, so I think this is a first,” he says.

Although it’s primarily Arab-inspired, the menu also includes burgers made with angus beef and even mushrooms, in another vegetarian option. According to Leal, these are meant for people who aren’t that fond of Arab food.

Quick facts

Souk Burger
Rua Mateus Grou, 182 – Pinheiros, São Paulo (SP)
Tuesday to Friday, 12pm to 3 pm and 6pm to 11pm; Saturday, 12pm to midnight; Sunday, 12pm to 11pm
Find out more: http://www.soukburger.com.br

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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