(photo credit: Adriana Last)
The sleepy town of Ma'alot in Israel's northwest might not be the first place you would think of when looking for a high quality French restaurant. But Hadarale isn't your typical Israeli eatery.
The bistro, located in a small shopping area just outside of Ma'alot, has an unassuming frontage which promises little of the excellence found inside.
It turns out that Hadarale combines those qualities which are often sought but rarely found in this country - superb food, attentive but professional service and eminent decor.
So few restaurants manage to make the customer feel that the management really wants to do the best it can while making sure the waiting staff doesn't get in the way of the diners' night out.
On entering the dining area we immediately noticed the furnishings. The dark brown leather chairs and wooden tables made us feel comfortable in our surroundings. But what makes a good French restaurant great is the food, and Hadarale didn't fail to impress.
From the starters through to the main courses and even the desserts there was a clear attention to detail which raises this bistro above its challengers.
I chose the salmon tartare in house marinade (NIS 45) as a starter. The mixture of fresh onions, salmon and a hint of lemon got my taste buds dancing.
My wife, meanwhile, delighted in her grilled eggplant in Asian marinade (NIS 27), which avoided an over-reliance on olive oil to allow the flavors to flow.
Although bread is not included in the meal, the house bread (NIS 15) comes highly recommended, and is hardly your run-of-the-mill affair.
Our waitress encouraged us to try the house wine (NIS 40 a glass, NIS 149 a bottle), a Laskov merlot made especially for Hadarale by the owner's father, who runs the local winery.
The wine had a fruity taste with an earthy feel and complemented our meat dishes superbly.
For the main course I went for the duet of veal and chicken accompanied by rosemary chips (NIS 98). The meat was cooked to perfection, while the poulet had a certain je ne sais quoi about it, probably arising from the secret marinade.
Mrs. Last decided to take the chef's special - a juicy 300 gr. entrecote which also came with the home fries (NIS 125). She was pleasantly surprised by the steak, which recalled summer holidays in the beautiful countryside of Bordeaux.
But the meal didn't end there. We shared the lemon sorbet (NIS 29), a crisp and light ending to a lovely wedding anniversary evening.
Not kosher. The writer was a guest of Hadarale.