carmel forest spa 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Eating with my dining partner at the restaurant at the Carmel Forest Spa Resort was kind of like the infamous restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally except for one crucial difference – I wasn’t faking it. Each bite was ecstatic, a revelation on a plate.
The dining room at the Carmel Forest Spa Resort overlooks the forest and manicured gardens, and almost every window in the hotel has a stunning view. All meals are included in the price of the room and the restaurant is exclusively for guests. This is bad news for anyone reading this review and hoping to drop in for a meal but good news for those planning a visit as every stay is full board. Chef Amir Kalfon does an exceptional job of achieving the impossible – making healthy food taste incredibly delicious. The menu is varied, seasonal and innovative. All of the dishes are created to be low-fat and diet-friendly. An on-site dietician is available to help guests create a menu tailored to their needs including portion sizes, allergies, and medical dietary restrictions. The dining room is open for specific hours for each meal and reservations are needed for dinner.
We arrived in time for lunch and helped ourselves to the salad bar after being seated. The salads were fresh and there was a large variety but I tried not to fill up before the main course. A nice touch is that along with each dish is a card explaining the healthy properties and giving a calorie count. This keeps you aware of what you are eating and also helps to control portion sizes.
When our lunch arrived it contained a few surprises – foods that I did not expect to be good proved to be outstanding, and some of my old stand-bys (like fettuccini in cream sauce with salmon) were not so interesting. My dining partner ordered the crispy pastry with assorted goat cheese and mushrooms roasted in olive oil and garden herbs served with a hazelnut sauce. This hadn’t impressed me on the menu but it was a slam dunk of a dish. The cheese was light, the herbs were divine, the pastry was not heavy or overwhelming and the hazelnut sauce was an earthy counterpoint. I ordered the grilled fish fillet served on a bed of pureed green vegetables and broccoli sprouts with a Spanish pepper sauce. This was a “reduced calorie dish” but it was definitely not reduced in flavor. The other grilled fish fillet (a la Plancha) is served on a bed of roasted pepper filled with stir-fried bulgur, fresh vegetables and organic tehina and tarragon-lime cream. This is the first time that I have ever seen bulgur served – and done well – in a gourmet dish.
Lunch was great, but nothing compared to dinner. We had a few starters to begin with. My favorite was the Carpaccio, it was so soft that it melted in my mouth. I also enjoyed the appetizer of raw salmon, which was served in small balls spiced with a little hot pepper and wrapped in thin slices of avocado.
We could have walked away from the table at that moment fully
satisfied, but then our main courses were served. The most innovative
and interesting was a lamb kebab and pine nut tagine served with
roasted eggplant, seared tomatoes and red onion in a farina dough
coating – a clear culinary nod to Chef Kalfon’s Moroccan heritage.
This dish was a little overwhelming at first because you need to crack
through the top layer of dough, which is somewhat awkward, but worth
the work. The sauce was almost like a soup and the flavors of all the
elements in the dish blended together perfectly. My favorite dish was
actually the charcoal-grilled beef fillet medallions served on a bed of
pureed Jerusalem artichoke with anise-scented fennel marmalade in a
beef sauce with a hint of espresso extract.
Our stay was finished off in the morning with breakfast as our last
meal – which we actually ate twice. We woke up early and had fruit and
coffee before our massages, and then afterwards we went back for
omelets, salad and delicious cheeses.
If you have ever lamented that kosher food in Israel is too safe, too
predictable and too boring, you must go to the Carmel Forest Resort
Spa. It is refreshing to be surprised by the food on the table and to
indulge in a menu that is innovative in every way with the added bonus
of being healthy as well.
Carmel Forest Spa Resort, P.O. 9000,
Haifa 31900. (04) 830-7888. Kosher. The writer was a guest of the
hotel. Price ranges from NIS 1,600 to 3,000 per couple per night for
double room, full board.
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