The beaches of Haifa are among the most beautiful in Israel, with long stretches of clean sand shaded by sturdy wooden pergolas and a fourkilometer promenade that is being extended north towards the archaeological site of Shikmona. The many beach cafes and restaurants are packed with Haifaites and their visitors, who relax by the water to eat and drink.
But up to five years ago, those who observe kashrut had to go elsewhere for refreshment because there was not one kosher eatery along that part of the coast. That has now changed with the establishment and growing popularity of Shalti-Eli with its wide-ranging kosher menu, welcoming atmosphere and comfortable sofas and terraces overlooking the sea.
Erez Cohen opened the restaurant in 2000 with a regular menu and a full bar, appealing to the younger crowd and open seven days a week. He had worked as an events organizer, was an experienced caterer, and the restaurant was successful. But he adopted a more spiritual way of life and decided to transform the restaurant into a fully supervised kosher eatery.
“This is reflected in the name Shalti- Eli,” he says. “I want there to be an open door for all ages and ethnicities from Israel and the world. We want our guests to feel this energy and the significance of questioning and gaining knowledge while sitting around a table together.”
Cohen’s family live in Germany, so he commutes between the two countries.
In his absence from Israel, he leaves the restaurant in the capable hands of a manager and permanent staff who understand the traditions and DNA of Shalti-Eli.
In 2009, when Cohen decided to convert the restaurant, he also redesigned the interior. The original high ceiling provides air and light, but the space is divided into eating areas to afford more intimacy. Some of the space can be closed off for private celebrations.
I always judge the cleanliness of an eatery by its bathrooms. When I went to wash my hands before the meal, I found a spotless area, tastefully designed, including a cubicle for disabled customers.
When asked about changes in custom since being closed Friday evening and Shabbat, Cohen said his weekday business has increased so much that it has amply compensated for being closed on the day when the Haifa beaches and other restaurants are packed full.
From the spiritual to the gastronomic, Cohen offered us a menu that presented multiple choices. As it was a very hot day, we chose to sit on the comfortable sofas by the windows looking out onto the sea, but there was a refreshing breeze on the terraces, too. The restaurant also has regular tables and chairs, a wise choice for families with children.
For the main dish my companion chose lamb ribs, which came with a crisp salad and freshly fried chips. The meat was well done but tender and the chips piping hot. My choice was crispy fish, which was also served with chips and salad. Other side dish choices were rice or baked potato.
Before the main dish was served, we were presented us with a large platter of dips, pestos and a variety of homemade salads such as eggplant, beets and fresh greens, together with a loaf of freshly baked house bread.
Although we had to refuse the offer of one of the tempting desserts from the menu, Cohen brought us a small plate of chocolate-covered halva petits fours, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Portions and prices vary at Shalti-Eli.
Nibbles such as humous with mushroom and onions are NIS 34 and NIS 39 with meat. Edamame, a soy lupin, is NIS 29.
There are ample choices for vegetarians, such as stir-fried vegetables in teriyaki sauce and chili and soy (NIS 45) and a large selection of sandwiches and salads. Pastas range from NIS 49 to NIS 59.
Fish meals, which include side dishes, vary from NIS 54 to NIS 90. Grilled meats and chicken range from NIS 45 to NIS 110, the higher price being for entrecote.
A full Israeli breakfast for two is NIS 92, and there are a la carte breakfast delicacies such as salmon toast with vegetables and house bread (NIS 49).
The portions of the dishes are large, so although children’s eyes might be bigger than their stomachs, there is a varied junior menu (NIS 49).
The desserts range from NIS 20 for a chocolate soufflé or ice cream to NIS 32 for apple pie and ice cream. There is a full wine and cocktail bar.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Shalti-Eli Hof Dado, Haifa (04) 855-0393 Weekdays 10 a.m. to 2.30 a.m. (or earlier opening for breakfast events).
Friday closes two hours before Shabbat.
Saturday night opens one hour after end of Shabbat. Open throughout the winter.