For someone raised on Jewish soul food, dining at Minato in Herzliya Pituah can
be quite an experience. From the moment you walk into this quiet yet busy
restaurant, you enter a new world, a place that might be more at home in Kyoto
than in an Israeli shopping precinct.
The wooden block tables and
benches, the blackboard announcing the evening’s specials, but most of all the
chef, Aki Tamura, visible behind a glass counter, creating the dishes that are
sent out one after another to the diners with remarkable speed, all contribute
to the feeling of authenticity.
Minato is a name familiar to dedicated
diners out, since a dairy sushi bar of that name has been active in Caesarea for
some nine years now. The owners, Matan Rosenthal and Kobi Ninio, decided to try
their luck with a larger meat restaurant in a more central location, and Minato,
Herzliya Pituah is the result. Judging by the steady stream of patrons on the
evening that I was there, it seems to have been a good decision.
helpful waitress advised us to take the tasting menu – in Japanese it’s known as
a Kai-Saki meal – in which about 10 small courses are brought to the table (NIS
280). By the end of the evening, we had lost count of the number of dishes we
tried, but it was certainly more than 10.
The variety was astounding. You
can try fish, raw fish, meat of all kinds or vegetarian all served with
accompaniments that are distinguished by their originality and attractive
presentation. The cooking is also done in many different ways – grilling,
steaming, baking and frying – which made for a very colorful and interesting
meal. One never quite knew what was going to arrive on the table
We drank sake, traditional rice wine, which is very mild and
doesn’t have much of an alcoholic kick. The Japanese beer we drank later in the
meal did the job better.
We were given an oshibori (a wet towel) before
starting on the food, which is apparently traditional in an izayaka (Japanese
restaurant). Some healthy-looking edamame appeared for nibbling until the
food arrived, but it didn’t take long. We were told that Japanese hors
d’oeuvres are called otoshi and are often served on large ceramic
Several of these appeared, some made of cubes of eggplant in a
mildly spicy sauce, others of shiitake mushrooms in green onions. The aubergine
soup with tofu was a new flavor for me – dark and smoky, pungent yet sweet. The
only taste that I had actually encountered before was the ginger, which featured
in many dishes.
Next up was another vegetarian choice – julienned carrots
and potato, almost conventional; then snow peas with sesame sauce, a delicious
combination of crunchy fresh snow peas covered in a thick yellow spicy
After this, some fish dishes appeared – sashimi made from sea
bream, sweet and vinegary, and chunks of fresh seared tuna in a tasty brown
sauce that seemed to have orange overtones.
The salmon eggs, another
delicacy, were served on a cooked vegetable whose flavor I loved but could not
identify. A discreet inquiry revealed that they were radishes.
sashimi rolls appeared – one made with tuna, snow peas and shiitake mushrooms,
the other fresh salmon and avocado topped with okra and minato sauce, a pungent
mix of wasabi and mayonnaise. They came attractively served on crushed ice
garnished with cucumber.
Everything was so perfectly flavored, that we
felt the two bottles of soy sauce on the table were superfluous. When we
inquired why there were two, we were informed that one contained less sodium
than the other.
The next dish was so good, that we asked for seconds!
This was sea bream tempura and pea-filled mushroom served on grated kohlrabi to
look like vermicelli. For once, the tantalizing small amount just wasn’t
After several more fish and tofu dishes, some meat arrived. The
first was a slice of tongue rolled around chopped mushroom and topped with
spring onion; the second was chunks of grilled steak in an orange sauce and
grated daikon topping.
By now almost unable to swallow a sip of water, we
nevertheless felt we must sample a dessert in the name of honest reporting. We
had tapioca and coconut with strawberries, refreshing and not overly sweet, and
“cheesecake” made from tofu, uncannily like the real thing.
For a very
unusual culinary experience, Minato is definitely the place.
was a guest of the restaurant.
8 Hamanofim Street, Herzliya
Tel: (09) 773-1703
Sun.-Thurs. noon to midnight; Friday 11 a.m. until an
hour before Shabbat; Saturday night until midnight.