Osaka: Sushi heaven?

When Rosh Chodesh Adar rolls around, I start hankering for fish. I don’t know if this is really related to the cosmic alignments or not, but I go with the flow. And this year I not only had a tyvia for fish but for sushi in particular. Now, I grew up in California, LA to be specific, and well, we get some great sushi. The fish is so fresh and tasty, it is hard to compare anywhere short of Japan. Israel is a different story. For the most part the only locally available fish are fresh water or very small sea water fish. They pale in comparison to the fatty and rich deep water fish such as salmon and tuna. But, thanks to air shipping, we get some of these fish too.

When deciding on a sushi restaurant ,I immediately started looking beyond Modiin. Our local sushi spot leaves much to be desired, although they do deliver. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to make the trek up the hill to Jtown. So I asked around and the consensus that I got was, head for Raanana. Surprisingly there are quite the choices when it came to sushi in Raanana, but since we wanted to go out as a date I chose, supposedly, the nicer place, Osaka.

We were not disappointed at all. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but the owners have obviously spent some time and money dressing the inside up nicely. I am a sucker for a nice looking restaurant.  It took a while for us to delve through the three page menu plus additional specials. Mainly, because it is hard to establish how much sushi you need to order to get full and not over eat. I have a problem. If there is sushi before me, I can’t stop myself, I have to finish it. But Osaka’s specials were a great deal: one starter and a main plus dessert. We decided on one special with a main of sushi and some additional roll that weren’t on the specials menu but looked interesting never the less.

I was very excited to get our chicken tempura; however, when it arrived I was decidedly less so. They used ground chicken and added cumin to the mix. It was a fusion of Asian and Mediterranean gone wrong. But we stuck it out, waiting for our sushi. One thing about the restaurant is that you can see into the kitchen, which is great because I love seeing how many chefs and cooks there are, how they work etc. But the restaurant manager was nervous by my furtive glances and repeatedly came to assure us that the sushi is coming. Finally my husband explained that he just has a curious wife.

The sushi finally came, and it was delicious. The fish was fresh and really tender. The rice, which for me is one of the most important elements, was properly cooked and seasoned. Not out of the world great, but more than acceptable for Israeli standards. One comment I did have was that the rolls, especially the vegetable rolls, seemed to lack a little bit of rice. I would have like to seen them a bit more full. The tempura rolls were amazing and the nigiri was properly packed, so it was easy to dip and eat.

I was surprise how full I was after the sushi, and when dessert came, I could only take a couple of bites. The apple pie, which is made in-house, was delicious. I only wished I could have eaten more.

All around, Osaka is nice place to go out. There are plenty of sushi options and non sushi options for non-fish people. Nice surroundings and pleasant staff made this date a wonderful experience.

Hipo Felafel: Organic Felafel in Tel Aviv

soem of the best organic felafel in Tel Aviv

I am going to admit it here so we get thing all out in the open, I LOVE STREET FOOD. If you can buy it on the street and preferably on a stick I love it. Yes, I also love fancy, gourmet food that is lovingly prepared by qualified chefs, and homemade food is to die for. But there is something about street food that just gets me going.

In Israel the national (although this is contested by many Palestinians) food is falafel. Heck, they even use them as symbols for rank in the military. As part of my patriotic duty, I love falafel. So when my friend told me about a great organic falafel place on Ibn Gvirol, I just had to try it.

Wedged between a burgers spot and shwarmaa shop is Hipo Felafel. Not the name I would expect for a falafel, but this isn’t your normal falafel joint. Bright colors and long lines told me that this place is doing something right. As I’m waiting to order, I see all the homemade sauces and pickles and it is just making me hungrier.

At the counter, purely for research, I order both a falafel and a sabich (no I was not going to eat them both, my husband was in the car, do you know what it is like trying to find parking on Ibn Gvirol in the middle of the day)

Sabich is basically pita stuffed with fried eggplant and hard boiled eggs often served with techina and Amba. For this eggplant lover, it’s to die for. Despite the onions I put in it, my husband loved it too.

Now, I am not going to be so bold as to claim Hipo makes the best falafel in the country but they do live up to The Falafel Standards.

  1. Pita must be fresh:  I can’t stress this one enough; any falafel must be served in fresh pita. Stale pita is a mortal sin never to be done – ever. Thankfully both our pitas were fresh and delicious. Hipo has options for fabulously soft and hearty whole wheat pitas as well.
  2. Falafel must be crunchy: Made to order Hipo’s falafel balls were crunchy and tasty and without any MSG and did I mention – completely organic.
  3. Condiments must be ample: I will have to return to assure that my experience was not a one off, because I love a lot of techina with my falafel and I forgot to remind the person helping me to put extra techina, so I’ll forgive this time, but watch out for the next

All around Hipo seems like a great place to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat in the center of Tel Aviv. Although I do not exclusively eat organic food, I appreciate the option. I do believe that fewer the chemicals the better. As for cost, they are a bit pricey at 16 shekels a pop, but their quality is worth it.

So next time you’re hungry in Tel Aviv check out Hipo  Ibn Gvirol 64

Bonafait

This is a first. I went to the restaurant Bonafait with a friend who is reviewing it for an Israeli newspaper. Part of the deal with the review was she had to call ahead to let them know we were coming. I tagged along as the photographer. More than anything, I couldn’t wait to go to see what they would put out as their best. If you knew a food reviewer was coming would you make mediocre food or your best.  (Wait this is Israel won’t bother answering that question)

Bonafait has calls themselves a “French café”. Now looking at their menu I didn’t see anything more French than a croissant, which is never a good sign. But the restaurant was pleasantly full in the middle of the day and is one of the most popular restaurants in the area.

Since it was a winter day, we started with a selection of soups. Can someone please explain to me why so few restaurants take the time to make soup well? The waitress she claimed they make them fresh every day. But all three soups, sweet potato, split pea and onion were drenched in cornstarch and MSG.  Has anyone ever heard of homemade stock?

After the soup they brought out a tasting platter with items from their “Health Menu”. The quiches were excellent, although my partner did not enjoy the eggplant quiche. She said the eggplant overwhelmingly the dish.  Being an eggplant lover, I totally disagreed. The leek latkes were surprisingly good with a spiced yogurt sauce. But I just could not imagine this as a main course; it was more like an appetizer.  The other dishes included wild rice and spice quinoa. Neither were well made, nor enough for a main course. I am not a vegetarian, but I certainly wouldn’t be happy if I went to restaurant and all I was served was a plate of gummy rice.

Next came the pasta, the creamy basil sauce was good but lacked some salt. While the rose sauce broke and lacked an essential balance of cream and acid. Both raviolis dishes were undercooked, which did not add to their flavor.

I am glad I saved room for dessert because the chocolate mousse was fantastic with a great dolce de leche sauce underneath. I wish I could recommend the cheese cake and the apple but they were both tasteless and dry. The apple cake’s topping of crushed nuts should have been toasted and it left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth.

But Bonafait is located in a charming place in Kfar Rut near modiin and is staffed with helpful and attentive waitresses, and the portions are not bad. All around I enjoyed the meal and the experience. Just stay away from the soups and pasta the rest was not bad and even good, although not very French.

‘Tis the Season for Sufganiot

Once upon a time, 8 years to be exact, in the mythical land of Sufganiot there was but one sufgania (the neon red jelly type with powdered sugar). Everyone ate them, everyone liked them.

After some time, the royal Bakers thought to themselves and realized that not everyone in Sufganiot land is the same. So why do should all the sufganiot be the same. The race was on. Every baker across the land began to experiment with their sufganiot. Some put in caramel, others went with chocolate. Every baker competed with his neighbor over how creative their sufganiot would be.

Now Sufganiot land is like Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors. There are more choices than subjects. And the people are happy. SO what is the moral of this little story?

1. “They tried to kill us; we were saved; now lets eat”

2. The important aspect of sufganiot is to unite us as common people to an occurrence long ago. Whether we eat the same or different kinds of sufganiot, the point is to eat because it unites us as a people.

3. Sufganoit are at least 4 weight watchers points so you shouldn’t eat a whole truck load even if you can.

Einstein Kosher Restaurant

Thank you Moshe Mizrachi for the great post all the way from Munich

After a long day of airports, airplanes and taxis, not to mention the 10 hours spent fixing computer problems, I took a quick walk into the Munich (or should I say Muenchen) city center.  Munich is a beautiful city and my next trip there I plan to really see the place, but on this cold Monday night I just wanted something to eat.  I had heard about a Kosher meat restaurant called Einstein so, work completed, I headed over there, double-time.

A quick stroll to St. Jakobs Platz (Saint Yaacov’s Place, for English speakers) and you find a wonderful, open square with some kind of Jewish history museum, a striking, stone-walled synagogue, and a nice 4-story building.  The security of said building was quite impressive.  Once you enter the small atrium the door behind you closes, security personnel in an adjacent, bullet-proof room talk you through the metal detector, and the next door will not open till they activate it by remote.  No one stands in the same room as you as you are checked.  The same goes for leaving.  Door opens, closes, then exit door opens.  Secure.

Once inside, I entered Einstein and was impressed with the décor.  Very open, very clean, very classy.  It being a slow night I was greeted immediately by a friendly man who showed me to my table and handed me the menu.  The menu is a bit on the short side, not having many options to choose from, but what is offered looks very good.

Being the carnivore that I am I selected the Fillet of Beef.  This is essentially a thick steak, with sautéed wild mushrooms and sweet potato puree.  It comes covered in some kind of “beef sauce.”  I have had many steaks in my time and, while not the greatest, this steak definitely ranks up there.  It was well tenderized, cooked medium-rare, and there wasn’t too much gristle (which I don’t really care for).  The sweet potato was wonderful, being well mashed and just the right amount of sweetness to balance the steak.  I especially enjoyed mixing the puree up with some of the sauce which is how I finished off my meal.  They also had a sizable selection of wines to choose from but I stuck with a simple glass of Coca-Cola.

The ambiance of the place has a relaxed-sophisticated feel and after the long, hard day I had this place and its food was exactly what I needed.  All said I spent a total of 27 Euro on the entire meal (plus tip).  Well worth it for me.  If ever you find yourself in Munich and looking for a nice Kosher meat restaurant, look no further than 13 St. Jakobs Platz and Einstein Kosher Restaurant.  Oh yeah, gutten tag!

http://www.jewishtraveladvisor.com/kosher-restaurant-dt.php?rn=Einstein%20Kosher%20Restaurant&ac=Munich&restaurantid=126

The Anna Ticho House

thank you to Jonathan Caras for the wonderful blog post and the great pictures, and thank you to Sarah for being so pretty.

Anna Ticho House

by Jonathan Caras

Since the birth of our daughter 10 months ago, my wife and I have made the extra effort to find time to spend a night out on the town whenever possible. The partially lit corner of a cute restaurant is about the best choice to get away from the heck-tick run around of our day to day lives.

My wife and I have always been fans of the Ticho House. We have recommended this restaurant to friends on a number of occasions, frequenting the restaurant with our friends and relatives for lunch or dinner. Since the last time we visited this restaurant, the Ticho House upped it Kosher status from Rabbinute (regular) to Mehadrin (vente). This was very exciting for us because we as a family also started eating only at Mehadrin Restaurants.

When we arrived at the restaurant, with no reservation, we were surprised how packed the place was for a Monday night. A waiter promptly sat us at a table for two and left us to rummage through the menu.

I am a sucker for fettuccine Alfredo, it gets me every time. I cant remember the last time I went to an Italian restaurant and didn’t order the dish. Sure enough after looking the menu up and down we decided to order two appetizers and a plate of Fettuccine Alfredo.

The appetizers came lightning fast, the first being a dish of wild mushrooms. If you are a mushroom fan this dish alone is worth visiting the Ticho house. Lightly sautéed wild mushrooms come seated on a giant crunchy fried dome shaped object, not unlike the potato chip “Munchos.” The mushrooms amazingly all had their own unique flavor while at the same time blending excellently in with the sauce. The dome shaped object was fun to break apart and use to scoop up the last remaining mushrooms on the dish.

The second appetizer did not measure up as well against  the amazing quality of the mushroom dish. We ordered a plate of stuffed artichokes, a dish I can remember my mother making in my home growing up. It may have been a case of unrealistic expectations but the hearts tasted dry and the stuffing lacked any kick that would make me say “wow, you have to try this!” We both agreed the dish needed some kind of sauce and a little pick me up in the presentation department. I cant say I didn’t enjoy the dish, but by the time I had salted it enough to taste some real flavor, I was in fact simply tasting salt.

The service at this point continued to surprise us. Despite how crowded the restaurant was, our waitress (can we still call them that, or is there some new PC term I don’t know about?) stopped by our table to check in on us just about every time she passed by the table.

At this point my heart broke. The pasta was brought out and a simple glance told us they had skimped out on the cheese. The noodles were cooked to perfection, but that was about all there was in the bowl. I felt like I had been served fettuccine noodles in warm milk. The most disappointing part of the story is that i am no stranger to the Ticho house’s Alfredo dishes. In the past it had always been creamy with that extra sauce left over for the much enjoyed bread dipping. We finished our meal talking nostalgically about how this pasta dish used to be served at this respectable establishment.

We still had some room left to fill after the disappointing pasta, so we asked for the desert menu. Glancing around the restaurant we spotted a few cakes and other deserts that looked to die for. My wife was in the mood for chocolate on chocolate so we ordered a volcano, and a decaf mocha-chino. This is a dish just about every restaurant has on its menu, and rightly so. Its hard to mess up chocolate cake with a hot chocolate sauce within, and the Ticho house did an excellent job. Desert was served quickly and hot, and there was no shortage of whipped cream on the coffee.

All in all it was a mixed experience at the Ticho House. We are defiantly looking forward to visiting again but next time we may end up sticking with the fish dish.

the Anna Ticho house is a museum located in one of the first houses in Jerusalem built outside the old city  at the end of the nineteenth century. The museum portrays life in Jerusalem in the beginning of the 20th Century. The Ticho house is located  in the center of town where the famous artist living and worked. To learn more about this beautiful and charming restaurant / museum visit

http://www.english.imjnet.org.il/htmls/Ticho_House3.aspx?c0=13392&bsp=12940

Hummus Adventure in Zichron

When running late scrambling to get up north before Shabbat, finding a place to eat is hard. But to our surprise what we found is Zichron Yaakov wasn’t just food but good food at that. As we began our trip to Haifa for the weekend, we left the house at 11:30 thinking we will get food along the way for the four of us, two adults plus two kids. Well typical Israel, mall and road stops don’t signage early enough for my speedy gonzalese husband. Soon it was 3:00 an hour before Shabbat  and we passed Zichron.

I have always loved Zichron, what is not to love. Beautiful little city tucked away in the hills over looking the Mediterranean. The city has taken great pains to ensure that the even the streets look quaint, matching the entire region’s wine and cheese flavor. As we drove up the main strip I didn’t expect to find anything that would be open but to our surprise Yoshki hummusia was kosher and open. I stepped in, of course there was no menu.  When I asked what there was, the waiter responded with “what do you want”. Finally we settled on hummus with meat, pita, shakshuka, and bean soup. He explained that we would have to eat outside since they were going to cleaning the restaurant, trying to shut down before Shabbat.

Now I was expecting much, and they definitely exceeded my expectations. The Hummus was a kinds chunky and creamy and even in their rush they took the time to apply all the condiments including olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, paprika and pine nuts.  Although this was not like Jerusalem Hummus it was really good with the fresh pita.

Both my husband and I were not big fans of the bean soup which need flavoring. But the eggs in the shakshuka were well cooked , the texture was creamy and it wasn’t too spicy (look my kids are not such fans of charif). I was just surprised that the cook who made it on the spot in a huge rush managed to make a simple but delicious meal.

While we sat enjoying the food, a little sun shower and the calm of Shabbat fell over the main street. After our meal we were ready to make our last jaunt to get to Hafia, We piled back in to the car so happy with full bellies and a great pre Shabbat feeling.

So if you are in the area check out the Hummusia is on the main drag to your right when coming into the city. It is definitely worth the drive.