(photo credit: BEN GOLAN)
A return visit to Minato has long been on my bucket list. Situated in a small shopping mall in Herzliya Pituah, this restaurant is a magnet for Japanese food lovers of which Israel seems to have an endless supply.
The last time we visited was six years ago but not much has changed. The décor is still faintly reminiscent of Japan – stark wooden shelves and partitions relieved with bonsai plants, tea-pots, geisha replicas and other Japanese bric-a-brac.
The owners, two Israeli entrepreneurs who also own a similar restaurant in Caesarea, seem to have found the right formula for keeping the place busy.
Good food, courteous, cheerful and quick service, authentic atmosphere all add up to a great evening out. We decided to leave the choice of food to our knowledgeable waiter and sat back to enjoy the view of three Japanese chefs rolling, patting and filling to produce the signature sushi dishes which are so much a part of the menu.
The drink of choice was, of course, sake, (Japanese rice wine) which we sipped while enjoying crunchy salted edamame as a nibble. It is about 10% alcohol proof so, although it tastes very mild, it has an almost imperceptible kick. This means one can drink gallons of it and not notice you are slowly becoming drunk.
Not too drunk however to enjoy the food that Or, our waiter was setting before us. We began the serious eating with a Nigi salad (NIS 75), a bowl of harusame noodles with tuna and salmon sashimi (raw cubes of fish) with avocado chunks, decorated with strings of cucumber and carrot. Harusame noodles are thin glass vermicelli type noodles and I was thrilled to discover that they are ‘less calorie-dense’ than wheat pasta.
The raw fish had been marinated in something spicy and lemony and was not at all ‘fishy,’ and the dish also included some seaweed for color and extra health properties.
Next up was Toro Tartare which Or said was their best-selling dish. (NIS 88). It consists of toro fillet (the fatty and juicy cut of tuna) served with diced avocado, spicy mayonnaise, teriyaki, tempura flakes and chopped scallions. (Spring onion to Brits.)It was all delicious, especially the tempura flakes but anything deep fried and crispy has got to be good.
The next dish to arrive was salmon matsuri, slices of more raw salmon topped with ponzu sauce (a Japanese condiment) with asparagus and caviar. There wasn’t much asparagus but the kosher ‘caviar’ was plentiful. (NIS 79).
Finally some fish which was actually cooked, a fillet of grouper, lightly fried with spring onions and served hot in the pan. (NIS 75).
To end our meal we decided to share Japanese apple crumble. Well, it’s very similar to ours, but not quite. It seemed to have been assembled rather than cooked together, so the sweet stewed apple chunks had been topped with very crispy crumble. It was a perfect ending to a very unusual meal which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Hamenofim St., Herzlia Pituach. 09 7731703
Sun-Thurs: Noon till midnight. Friday: 11 till before Shabbat. Saturday night: till midnight.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
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