A slice of heaven

Soaking up scenery and culinary delights in the Judean Hills.

By JEREMY COLLINS
July 2, 2010 16:11
3 minute read.
The flavors found at Rama's Kitchen are unbeatable

ramas kitchen 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The first thing I noticed as my date and I drove from Jerusalem to Rama’s Kitchen was that the location really felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. The home-style restaurant is located in the small village of Nataf, deep in the Judean hills. I had wanted to visit this particular restaurant for years, ever since hearing some foodie friends of mine talking about the goose confit in hushed, whispered tones, almost as if they didn’t want to give away the secret.

The location, although slightly inconvenient traffic-wise on a Thursday night, merely served to increase my anticipation, as well as my hunger. The further into the Judean Hills we drove, the more excited I became, knowing full well that firstly, the fabled location and views of the restaurant were going to live up to the hype, and secondly, that anyone who had the chutzpah to open an eatery way out in the countryside must be supremely confident that their food was going to be great. So after a 30-minute traffic jam getting out of Jerusalem and a small tour around Abu Ghosh we finally arrived. The setting was beyond even my wildest expectations, and the outdoor restaurant was literally perched high up in the hills.

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Everything about Rama’s Kitchen encapsulates exactly what owner Rama Ben Tzvi was trying to achieve when she opened the restaurant on a whim about 15 years ago. To her immense credit she has been able to invent and maintain a family kitchen, ‘home style’ type atmosphere whilst at the same time providing her diners with a gourmet eating experience. It is not just the setting that contributes to the former, but small touches such as an extraordinarily friendly and easy going waitstaff, hand made rustic crockery, some cute dogs running around, and the fact that all the food is either homemade and grown or locally sourced (much of it via the exceptional Maggie (http://maggiesgarden.co.il/).

The best and freshest ingredients available permeate the varied summer menu, which has an eclectic Mediterranean-French-Arab mix that only adds to its charm. My starter of seared chicken livers in sweet balsamic with pickled beetroot and apples was truly a joy, and the burst of flavors and textures with every mouthful will live long in my memory. My partner ate the charred eggplant wrapped in kadayif, filled with feta cheese and caramelized onion, and served with a yogurt sauce. An obsessive eggplant eater, she always goes for the eggplant starter, and was thrilled with this new take on a Middle Eastern classic.

For the main course I had the lamb , which came highly recommended by the waiter, and came punctuated with fresh herbs grown in the gardens surrounding the restaurant. The dish, which comprised of three different types of lamb, was actually a bit ‘busy’ for my taste, and I found the kebab aspect of the dish slightly too minty. The rack of lamb, in contrast, was moist and succulent, with a subtle yet delicious rosemary taste, and was complimented perfectly by the roasted Jerusalem artichoke, an ingredient I am always delighted to see on any menu, particularly in this form. My partner ordered the fish of the day – freshly caught that morning off the coast of Jaffa, seasoned beautifully, and grilled to perfection alongside some perfectly cooked spring vegetables. What could be better?

Although we had no room for dessert (the portion sizes were massive), Rama herself came over for a chat (something she often does with her patrons) and convinced us to sample something to share. We chose the ‘harbe chocolad’ – a chocolate cake served with chocolate mousse, and both elements were light, fluffy, rich and simply divine. We then let our stomachs digest the food whilst enjoying the atmosphere with a lovely pot of herbal tea, picked fresh from Rama’s own garden.

A trip to Rama’s Kitchen is not going to be cheap – the mains were in the NIS 120 region – but the truth is I would happily have paid twice as much. Sometimes a restaurant just gets it right, and Rama’s Kitchen certainly ticks all the boxes – the setting, ambiance and of course the food were all exceptional, and this unique treasure of a restaurant deserves to be placed on a pedestal as one of, if not the, top culinary destinations in the Jerusalem area. I implore everyone to make a booking today!

Rama’s Kitchen is located at Moshav Nataf, outside of Jerusalem. Not Kosher. (02) 570-0954 or www.ramak.co.il. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.


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