Aviran Refaeli Nagai, owner of Takikawa Middle East cuisine take-out shop
Aviran is the owner of “Avi’s kitchen”, a Middle East cuisine take-out shop in Takikawa. The shop offers selections like “kebabs” (chicken grilled on skewers) and “falafels” (chickpea croquettes) stuffed inside pocket-shaped Middle Eastern bread to enjoy hamburger-style. “In addition to local residents, people who have visited or lived in the Middle East also come from long distances away and joyfully tell me the food really reminds them of their time there,” Aviran said, smiling.
Aviran hails from Ashqelon, in central Israel. In 2007 he came to Japan to visit a friend from Ashqelon who was living in Sapporo, and became close friends with Akari, a woman from Takikawa introduced to him by his friend. They married in 2009 and moved to Takikawa. Drawing on his experience as a chef, he opened a restaurant in 2014. And, after closing that restaurant and taking a temporary break, he opened his current shop in January 2021.
Used as an accent for all of the dishes is the aromatic and rich “hummus” chickpea paste. This is a common Middle East flavor, and Aviran learned his recipe from his chef grandfather.
His grandfather, who “always had a smile and was nice to everyone” was a Jewish man originally from Romania who suffered a tragic experience as a child. Amidst an increase in Nazi persecution, his grandfather was relocated with his family to a ghetto (segregated Jewish district) in Ukraine around 1940 when he was six years old. Their freedom was stripped from them, and his grandfather’s father died in the ghetto. His grandfather kept from starving by eating things like weeds. After being freed, he decided to go into the business of food, thinking, “If I become a chef, I will never have to worry about having enough food again.”
Aviran’s grandfather passed away at 84 years old in 2019. Aviran commented, “The recipes he taught me are my pride and joy.” The shop reached its one-year anniversary in January. Aviran wants to expand the circle of smiles together with his customers, ever holding his grandfather’s memory in his heart.
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