Dining Review: Privilege to be a customer

"People who come here have to appreciate it," Hagai, owner and manager of Macaroni & Grill in Rosh Pina.

September 6, 2007 15:02
3 minute read.

It's very rare for a restaurant whose owner scoffs at the phrase "the customer is always right" to be so successful. But don't let Amos Hagai's attitude put you off. He believes the customer isn't always right because he is dedicated to perfection, and if the customer isn't satisfied, well, that's his problem. "People who come here have to appreciate it," Hagai, owner and manager of Macaroni & Grill, proudly declared upon meeting at the restaurant on a late Sunday afternoon. It's clear Hagai is a colorful character on the northern culinary scene, and the former cooking instructor gives the impression of someone who has dedicated his life to good food and wine. Judging from the way Macaroni & Grill was filled, it seems that more often than not, customers are satisfied. Since its founding eight years ago, Macaroni & Grill has emerged as a Rosh Pina establishment famous for its hamburgers, or "am-burgers" as he calls them. It originally started in a small storefront on the main cobblestone road of Rosh Pina (now home to the Lechem Erez cafe), but four years ago it moved to the mini outdoor mall located at the entrance of the city. Hagai's standards of perfection were evident in the impressive interior, which he designed himself. The place is enveloped in fine wood, the tables and stools handcrafted. It gives off the aura of a sophisticated Western bistro. People generally don't come to Macaroni & Grill to drink by the bar, but Hagai installed a fully-stocked bar for effect. If first impressions count when it comes to food, the home-made olive starter foreboded well for Hagai. Nestled in olive oil and freshly cut garlic, their flavor was balanced, not too bitter or too spicy. The menu is large and eclectic. Appetizers include chicken wings, kebab, sausages, carpaccio and an array of shrimp dishes. Entrees include steaks, four kinds of schnitzel, seafood, fish, pasta, and Asian noodles. But first timers are usually recommended to try Hagai's burgers. He comes in early in the morning to grind and spice the meat himself, the way he has for the past eight years. He meticulously chooses the men in the kitchen based on their lack of experience. "I hire only beginner chefs so that they don't bring in their bad habits," he said. Hagai is intent on training his chefs personally to maintain flavor consistency throughout the years. That lack of experience definitely makes for good burgers. The 220-gram juicy patty (NIS 38, but different sizes are available) was fresh and delicious. The white buns didn't really justify the fine raw materials of the meat, but Hagai insisted he tried many bakeries before settling on the privileged bun. I would love for him to make his own - and why not try whole wheat? Towards the end I preferred to enjoy the meat on its own - it didn't need all the trimmings. The French fries (NIS 10/20) were fine: definitely nothing to complain about (luckily enough for "good customer" wannabe me). Hagai demonstrated that he can master desserts as well. His mahlebi, like a homemade sahleb, had an even-gelled consistency. Usually mahlebis are too candy-like for me, but his wasn't too sweet, and it refreshed me after the burger. I'm generally not a fan of knafe, the sweet Lebanese noodle pastry glued together with cheese, but Hagai's was enjoyable and served very fresh and hot, just like the burgers. All in all, I think I'd be a welcome customer at Macaroni & Grill in the future. I can appreciate it. Open everyday 11:30 a.m. - midnight; Center HaGalil Mall, Rosh Pina, (04) 680-1592; not kosher.

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