MOUNTAIN LAKES — “We take great pride in striving to provide all our customers with a truly memorable and exceptional dining experience while at Barka, serving only the finest, freshest, healthiest food available”, says Besi Osmanaj, the very affable Manager of Barka, and our host for the evening. After a few minutes of talking to Besi, his sincere focus on customer service and satisfaction was evident, as well his description of the cuisine that was to come. We were in for a great meal!
Barka Mediterranean, which opened in 2016, features an impressive and diverse menu complete with an eye-popping variety of tempting dishes covering a wide selection of choices from the many and various geographical Mediterranean cultural take on food, including but not limited to, Albanian, Italian, Turkey, and Spain. Clearly, the stand-out stars of the menu are the fresh fish and prime meats, which are aged in-house for 28 days. Unfortunately, the owners, brothers Skender (Kenny) and Sokol (Gino) Gjevukaj were not in during my visit, but it has been noted that Mr. Gjevukaj describes the essence of Barka’s cuisine as fresh, simple, healthy, and clean. As a side note, Barka simply translates to “small boat”. The brothers also, as part of an independently owned restaurant group, operate five other high-quality restaurants, including the popular Sear Grill House in Little Falls, and It is my understanding they plan on opening another upscale eatery in the Parsippany area soon. Based on my past dining experiences at both Barka and Sear, I will be looking forward to it.
Barka is a large, attractive, chic-looking building located on Route 46 East and was formerly the site of the South City Grill. There is plenty of parking in a large lot in the rear of the restaurant. As soon as you enter you are impressed with the contemporary vibe, as well as the eloquence of the interior. Gorgeous décor throughout the entire restaurant, and immediately on entering you encounter a cool and enticing fresh fish display at the entrance which seems to set the mood. A true touch of class both inside and out. Warmly welcomed, greeted, and seated by a very attentive, prompt, and proficient wait staff, we were politely led to our beautiful, and elegantly appointed, white linen cloth-covered table for four; complete with sparkling glassware and thoughtfully placed utensils wrapped carefully in napkins. If it is your preference, you also have the choice to be seated at one of several cozy-looking horseshoe-style booths that align the sidewall.
As soon as we were seated, our water glasses were filled and a complimentary basket of warm bread, hummus, sliced radishes, and green and black olives were placed on the table for us to share while our drink orders were taken, courteously we were given plenty of time to peruse the menu. There is a large, inviting, comfortable bar in Barka, which in post-pandemic times will once again clearly be a nice place to socialize, get together with friends, or just to enjoy a quality cocktail and a bite.
Even though you still cannot sit at the bar, Barka does continue an offer “Happy Hour”, seven days a week, from 4 pm to 7 pm. If you are looking for a casually elegant, upscale, cozy, romantic venue for date night or any special occasion, Barka is certainly someplace to be considered. On that note, if you are planning a party, Barka has five separate rooms that can accommodate your needs based on the size of your party. Personally, I fell in love with the private wine room. Right up my alley! I will certainly be keeping that in mind. And yes, all current pandemic health code requirements are always fully enforced.
For those of you who still feel more comfortable dining al fresco, Barka does offer a beautiful outdoor patio dining set up which, weather permitting, will probably be available by the time you read this review.
As for our dinner, for our appetizers, we shared the Pistachio Goat Cheese (Pistachio Crusted Goat Cheese, with its tart and earthy flavor, coupled with the sweetness of Fig Jam and Honey), Shrimp Arrabiata (Tender, yet firm, fresh shrimp, with Spicy Garlic White Wine, Chopped and Italian Hot Peppers), and the Burrata Mozzarella (Fresh creamy, rich, indulgent Mozzarella, served with Baby Arugula, Mission Figs). Everything was packed with layers of satisfying flavor, and individually as scrumptious and delectable as they sound, not to mention, each dish provided an ample enough portion for three to share and satisfy us while we discussed our entrees.
Despite Barka’s highly regarded reputation for serving exceptionally fresh seafood, which is delivered five days a week, and is known to be cooked to perfection, (including their immensely popular Wild Whole Branzino), I, along with my group decided on three different cuts of steak. I love fish, but being more of a carnivore, I could not resist the Blue Moon Rib-Eye special, a succulent, perfectly executed, properly seasoned, dry-aged, Rib Eye steak, pepper dusted and topped with melted blue cheese, accompanied with sides of fingerling potatoes, broccoli rabe, with natural au jus. A savory, mouthwatering, delicious cut of meat; juicy, moist, tender, and loaded with beefy umami flavor. I enjoyed every bite! Along with my steak, I managed to enjoy one of Barka’s well-made Bourbon Manhattan’s, my go-to libation.
My friends also went with the steak selections; one had the 10 oz. King Cut Prime Filet Mignon, and the other, the 6 oz. Petit. By all accounts, as well as by their clean dishes, their meals were as satisfying and delicious as mine, and there was nothing but high praise all around.
Finishing off we all went with the Apple Fritter dessert, and Cappuccinos. A luscious, flakey, glazed golden outer crust filled with apple stuffing and accompanied with strawberries and cream. Great texture and just the right amount of sweetness. It was extremely gracious of our host, Besi, to offer us a complimentary Port Wine Aperitif to end a culinary exciting, and satisfying evening.
Obviously, I would highly recommend stopping in and enjoying any one of Barka’s fantastic dishes. This is truly fine dining that goes far above being just another meal. Dining at Barka is a dining experience.
Thank you to Mr. Osmanaj, and the full staff, at Barka for the great food, hospitality, and service. And as always, please come out and help support all our local businesses.
Dine-in, Take-Out, Curbside Pickup, Delivery, Private Parking Lot. Open 7 days a week.
Barka Mediterranean Cuisine is located at 60 Route 46 East, Mountain Lakes. (973) 917-3386. Click here for their website.
Reprinted from Tri-Town Focus Magazine, April 2021.