Hotel Review: A charming oasis in the heart of Haifa

Nestled in the heart of Haifa, in a protected historic building, sits the Bay Club Hotel, part of the ever-expanding Atlas chain.

The impressive building, which was originally a family home at the time of the Ottoman Empire and later housed the British Mandate police, is now a 52 room boutique hotel. The hotel has a regal art deco design with a nautical theme, accentuated by a calming blue and green color scheme.

We arrived just in time for the daily happy hour which is held in the restaurant with its peaceful conservatory.  As well as a selection of drinks, there was also a light dairy buffet and a free 15-minute massage from the hotel spa, which was so good, I decided to book a full treatment the next day.

The Shorashim Spa (www.shorashimcare.com) is housed in the lower level of the hotel and offers a wide range of holistic treatments tailored to one’s preference.  Yoav Lalum, the spa owner, gave me a wonderful massage that was both intense and relaxing at the same time.  The advantage of having a massage in a hotel is that you can go straight up to your room afterward and relax.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Credit: Nathan Dvir

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Bringing New Life to Eilat Kosher Dining

There was a time when Eilat had some of the best kosher restaurants in the country, but in recent years many of these places have closed, leaving mostly hotel restaurants that have served the same food for the last 10 years. Thus I was very excited to learn that some new kosher places have opened recently and took the opportunity to try 5th Avenue, a restaurant and cocktail bar that became kosher in February.

5th Avenue was opened a few years ago by Moran and Shlomo Amar. Even though they both grew up in traditional homes, having traveled everywhere and eaten everything, they opened a non-kosher restaurant to cater to the tastes of the local Eilat residents, as well as tourists. Over the years, their family has grown, and the couple has returned to their roots. They decided that they no longer wanted to work on Shabbat or serve non-kosher food in their restaurants. They sold their restaurant on the beach, which is still non-kosher, and 5th Avenue became kosher.

Together with chef Aviv Moshe, they developed a menu that would still keep their existing clients happy, while catering to new kosher clientele. Since becoming kosher, the restaurant has been in high demand for private events for both lunch and dinner.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post 

Café 65 offers a relaxing business lunch in a tranquil setting

Business lunches are a great way to try high-end restaurants at a reduced price and are also a good opportunity for a working lunch. I have tried business lunches in a number of places in Tel Aviv, so I was excited to see how the lunch at Café 65 compared.

Café 65 is situated in the 65 Hotel, part of the Atlas Hotel chain, located at 65 Rothschild Boulevard. The café is in the hotel lobby, and there is a spacious patio overlooking the street. Although this is a busy area, sitting in the café was lovely and quiet, and the tables were spaced far enough apart to allow for private conversations.

As with many business lunches, the price of the main course included a starter and a soft drink. A colleague was my dining companion, and we have been to a number of business lunches in the area together. We both that the lunch at Café 65 was better value and higher quality than others we had tried recently. We appreciated that all the starters on the menu were included in the price of the lunch, unlike some places where they try to upsell you with starters that incur an extra cost. In addition to the eight main courses on the menu, there were three chef specials, which all sounded wonderful, but we both opted for dishes from the set menu.
Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post 

NOTE: Even though the main menu is just dairy, Cafe 65 is not kosher and they sometimes serve seafood specials.

Salmon Fillet Cafe 65 Credit Yonathan Ben Haim

The Ultimate Farm-To-Table Experience

Gillis Steak House is worth a special trip to the Golan.

I always have a certain degree of trepidation when revisiting a restaurant that was so wonderful on a previous visit, in case the reality does not live up to the memories. This was especially true for my return visit to Gillis Steak House, as not only had it been several years since my last visit, but I had also planned a three-day trip to the Golan to make sure that we would be there for the Thursday night meat feast at Gillis. Fortunately, not only did the meal not disappoint, but it exceeded my expectations and those of my dining companion, who had heard me rave about the place for years.

Gillis is a family-run meat business on Moshav Nov in the Golan. The Gillis family live and breathe beef. By day, they run a cattle farm and butcher shop; and on Thursday nights, they open their converted barn as a restaurant so that patrons can enjoy the high quality of their beef. The menu is a meat-lover’s paradise, with several meat dishes to choose from, as well as meat platters and two tasting menus for those who want to try the full selection of dishes on offer.

So much of the charm of the Gillis Steak House is the setting and the hospitality of the Gillis family. We arrived just after they opened at 6 p.m., and there were already four tables of diners seated. We sat with a view of most of the restaurant, witnessing the efficient service of the team of young local waitresses. A bottle of water and an appetizing starter appeared within minutes of our being seated, soon followed by the menu.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

A Weekend Getaway in Haifa

Despite being Israel’s third-largest city, Haifa is not always on the top of people’s places to visit and, having lived in Israel for 10 years, I have not spent much time there. So, when Jessica Halfin, the founder of Haifa Street Food Tours, approached me about spending a weekend in her beloved city, I jumped at the chance to discover its hidden charms.

Originally a baker, Jessica started offering food tours as a way to showcase the local culinary scene and to offer tourists an insight into Haifa’s diverse culture.

We started our tour in Konditoria Hamizrach in the Arab neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas, to sample some Arab sweets. This bakery has been run by the Mahroum family for over 35 years and is the offshoot of a larger bakery in Nazareth.

First, we tasted their homemade halva, which was softer and creamier than any I have had before. We also tried their traditional knafeh, made with cheese from Nablus and kadaif noodles from Nazareth, which differs from knafeh in Jerusalem, which is often made with semolina.
Our next stop was Burekas Turki M’Izmir in the downtown Turkish market area. Here the owner let us into his tiny kitchen to see how he stretched the dough to form the burekas before they are baked. As well as the typical potato and cheese burekas, we also devoured an Arabic cheese and fresh za’atar burekas, which is a local specialty. All the burekas were served perfectly with a sliced hardboiled egg, pickles and fresh tomato sauce and it is clear why this place is a popular hangout for students. We accompanied our burekas with some shots of Arnavim Arak, which is a local brand from Haifa marketed to young Israelis.As we wandered around the area, passing many interesting cafes and bars, we admired the murals and street art lining the narrow streets.

Our next stop was spontaneous, but the rows of Arak bottles seemed to beckon us in. Suidan Nehme seemed primarily to be an alcohol store, but also had shelves filled with produce from all over Europe that I have never seen anywhere else in Israel. The friendly owner invited us to drink a toast with him of Ramallah Distilleries Extra Fine Arak, and we also tasted the very rich Abu Salma Arabic coffee made by Nakhly in Shfaram, near Nazareth.
To build up an appetite, we climbed some of the many steps in Haifa away from the port and up to the business district. Our last stop was Hummus Bardichev (kosher), a family-run hummus restaurant that primarily services the surrounding office buildings. The owners have had a branch in the Carmel Center for a number of years and opened this second branch last year. One of the family spent a few years in Jerusalem eating at home-cooked restaurants like Azura in Mahaneh Yehuda and said he wanted to bring something similar to Haifa.

The hummus was warm and creamy and the pita bread fluffy and fresh. The menu included food from Iraq, Morocco and Libya, as well as some traditional Ashkenazi dishes. The highlights for us were the jug of fresh lemonade, which was perfectly thirst quenching and not too sweet, and the vegan malabi, made from coconut cream with candied pistachios on top.
We ended our tour with a glass of Tulip Espero 2015, a blend of syrah, merlot and cabernet franc. The Tulip winery in nearby Kfar Tikva not only produces an incredible range of wines, but is also home to adults with developmental and emotional disabilities, some of whom work in the winery. If you find yourself in the area, it is definitely worth a visit.

Later in the evening we met up again with Jessica to explore the downtown area by night. Although there are numerous bars to choose from, we were particularly curious to learn about the ones run by young secular Arabs. Impossible to find unless you are taken there, the entrance to Kabareet was hidden down a quiet dark alley, but just like an Aladdin’s cave, there were wonderful jewels within. The red painted walls of the cavelike bar and collection of mismatched, antique-looking furniture added character to this unusual establishment.

Kabareet (Credit Wisam Zoabi)

The barwoman who served us was Jewish and chose to work here to get to know her Arab neighbors and improve her Arabic.

It was a perfect opportunity to try another local Arak, this time a Golden Arak from Ramallah. Coming from Jerusalem, it was a refreshing change to see Jews and Arabs socializing so freely, and maybe it is a glimpse of things to come.

As spring approaches, Haifa is a good option for some time away.

Jessica Halfin’s tours are custom-built to client’s specific requirements. For more information: www.haifastreetfoodtours.com.

Click here to read the full article on The Jerusalem Post website or the PDF of the article.

Authentic Thai food in Downtown Haifa

There are two things that most young Israelis love – eating good food and traveling through Thailand, so I have always been surprised at the lack of authentic Thai food in Israel.

Luckily for those living in Haifa, Chang Ba is the real deal, no doubt thanks to its Thai sous-chef, Dam.

Chef Idan Lifshitz serves his favorite Thai street food and even grows some of his own herbs to make the dishes as authentic as possible. The restaurant was originally situated in a smaller location but moved last year to Hanamal Street in the popular downtown Haifa port area.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Chang Ba (Credit Avi Shumacher)

A Japanese Gem in Jerusalem

JLM Sushi offers a genuine taste of the Orient

On a recent trip to the US, I realized how much I miss authentic, clean sushi. So many of the sushi restaurants in Israel have adapted their menus to Israeli tastes by incorporating ingredients like cream cheese and smoked salmon, which have no place on a real sushi menu. Although there are some good sushi restaurants around the country, Jerusalem has very few.

So it was refreshing to find a sushi restaurant that offers simple, clean sushi, where the focus is on the quality of the fish. Despite the name, JLM Sushi is more of a Japanese bar with a variety of Japanese dishes, including sushi.

Chef Yankale Turjeman, owner and chef of 1868, Zuta and now JLM Sushi, hosted us in this intimate new bar. With such a small kitchen on the premises, it is not possible for the chef to create a menu to the level he desires, so he uses the larger kitchen in his 1868 restaurant to prepare some of the dishes on the JLM menu.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

JLM Sushi Credit - sivan shuv-ami

JLM Sushi: Credit – Sivan Shuv-Ami

Gourmandises by Yoel brings French gourmet to Jerusalem

Gourmandises by Yoel in Kikar Hamusica is an authentic French bistro run by the Afriat family.

Livnatt and Yoel Afriat were opticians in Paris with a number of their own shops, but they knew they wanted to change their careers to something that would be more easily transferable to Israel. So Yoel gave up being an optician to become a pastry chef and spent a year at Le Notre, one of Paris’s most prestigious cooking schools. Then he started his own patisserie business, selling his creations from the family home in Paris.

A chance meeting with the owner of Kikar Hamusica at a party in Paris in 2014 led to the Afriat family’s making aliya and the opening of Gourmandises by Yoel just six months later. All the pastries, breads and beautiful desserts are made by Afriat and his team from their factory in Talpiot, while the food for the restaurant is prepared by chef Oscar Zuckerman in the kitchen below the restaurant. Livnatt manages the restaurant and the catering business, which caters events at the restaurant itself for up to 200 people but also provides parve or dairy dessert buffets for weddings and other special occasions.

Many people think that Gourmandises by Yoel is just a bakery or pastry shop, but the varied menu offers so much more, so we were delighted to be invited to sample the dinner menu. In keeping with the musical theme, many of the dishes on the menu are named after French musicians.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Hanamal 24 is a European enclave in downtown Haifa

The small streets surrounding the Haifa port in the recently developed downtown Haifa area reminds me of many European cities, with bars and coffee shops spilling onto the cobbled streets and sidewalks. So it is very fitting that when you walk into Hanamal 24, the European theme continues, with the restaurant’s décor reminiscent of a rural Italian courtyard. Although the eatery seats 80 diners, the layout, with its numerous nooks and side rooms, creates an intimate space for all patrons, even on a busy night.

Hanamal 24 is the brainchild of restaurateur Guy Avital and chef Ran Rosh. Rosh trained in France and worked at a two-Michelin star restaurant before returning to Israel to start working with Avital. The menu is in the style of a traditional French bistro with Italian influences.

Avital recommended that we order the tasting menu (NIS 299) so we could try most of the restaurant’s signature dishes.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Rosemary Grissini (Credit Avi Shumacher)

Cream of Onion Soup (Credit Avi Shumacher)


Foodie score 6/10, FODMAP friendly score 6/10

La Padella brings a taste of Europe to the Jerusalem Shuk

Breakfast and More Morning to Night

Street food options in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market are plentiful, with new places opening up all the time. But for those of us who sometimes prefer to sit in a proper café and enjoy an indulgent brunch, the options are more limited. Luckily, La Padella has changed that.

The restaurant has a diverse menu that includes more than 10 types of breakfast, as well as an interesting selection of sandwiches, salads, rich main courses and decadent desserts. Located in the space where Café Mizrachi once stood, La Padella has quickly become popular with both locals and groups touring the shuk (it can seat up to 25 people at a long table).

As with many places in the shuk, at night La Padella turns into a bar with a less than standard wine and cocktail menu and a well-stocked bar. We enjoyed a refreshing glass of Psagot White Seven (NIS 30/glass and NIS 95/bottle) with our meal but hope to go back soon to try the cocktails.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

French breakfast

Mac & Cheese

Cheesy Fries

La Padella, +972(0)2 624 2105, Kosher Mehadrin

Foodie score 7/10, FODMAP friendly score 7.5/10