(photo credit: ERON MOLOT)
If you’re feeling nostalgic for the great food you ate on that Parisian holiday, there’s no longer any need to actually travel to France. Just head over to Carrousel in Ra’anana, where chef, proprietor, and head (and only) waiter, Stephane Cohen Aroro holds court. It’s a gastronome’s paradise, and, best of all, it’s kosher.
Once situated in the heart of the town on Rambam Street, chef Stephane built up a glowing reputation for good authentic French cuisine. The place was very small and one of the reasons he moved was to be able to accommodate more tables for his many fans who have followed him to the outpost at Etgarim, a new high-tech complex. The restaurant is actually in a small parade of shops and has some outdoor tables under a striped awning.
We arrived at seven in the evening and watched in awe as the place gradually filled up. Two sets of guests were turned away as they did not have reservations. Stephane was everywhere at once, supervising the kitchen – we think there was one other worker – and being a charming host and waiter at one and the same time.
To allay the hunger pangs, some carrot and cucumber wedges arrived with garlic and dill dips and while enjoying these we looked around at the décor. High up on the end wall there’s a facsimile of a Parisian window, complete with wooden shutters, and hanging plants. At the entrance is a collection of carousels or merry-go-rounds if you’re English. The tables have white linen cloths and there are a few pieces of rustic furniture around.
Atmosphere-wise it’s perfect. What about the food? Stephan soon reappeared with three small bowls of soup, just to give a taste of what is available. The bouillabaisse (fish soup) was – well – fishy, the pea soup thick, and the onion soup correctly evoked its Les Halles origins, all nicely Gallic. A normal sized plate of soup would cost NIS 35.
The home-made brioches had probably been baked early that morning so by the time they arrived at our table they were rather stale, but lashings of butter compensated for that.
For starters Stephane brought us toasted baguette slices topped with melted camembert, called tartignots, with a tossed salad. (NIS 62). The balsamic dressing was very good. Another starter was blue goat cheese salad and the simple ingredients added up to an exceptional taste.
While waiting for the main course, Stephane took some time off to tell us that he studied cooking in Paris, made aliyah 22 years ago and taught at the Tadmor cookery school in Herzliya for several years. The Carrousel is his first venture into business.
We left the choice of main courses to him and a plate of grilled salmon appeared with sweet potato puree, sliced baked potatoes, and some braised courgettes. The salmon was cooked to the right degree and the lemon butter sauce was outstanding. (NIS 100). The second choice was risotto with barbounia and zucchini. It was hot, buttery and the ultimate comfort food. (NIS 75). All the dishes are made to order and nothing seems to be mass-produced.
For dessert, we each picked our habitual ‘afters’, crème brulee for me (NIS 38) and chocolate mousse (NIS 35) for my companion. The brulee was as good as expected, redolent with fresh cream – sinful but worth it. The mousse was advertised as being made without yolks or sugar, but plenty of dark chocolate. It is certainly an idea of genius to reduce the calorie content and was thoroughly enjoyed by its eater.
Carrousel proves that kosher gourmet is not an oxymoron. It’s alive and kicking, thanks to Stephane’s talent and determination.Carrousel
3 Zarchin St., Etgarim, Ra’anana. (09) 746-0586
Sunday to Thursday, Noon to 3 p.m., 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Friday, Shabbat, closed.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
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