A meal at Netanya's El Gaucho restaurant.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
South Beach in Netanya is an unspoiled area with few highrises, one mini-market and a magnificent view of the Mediterranean stretching out to the horizon. It’s the place that the El Gaucho chain chose to set up shop 25 years ago and has become something of an institution for kosher carnivores who quickly realized that the food is good, the atmosphere friendly and the service usually impeccable.
Invited to sample the food recently, we sat at a table for two next to the window just as the sun was setting and the sky was a florid mix of reds, pinks and oranges against the tranquil turquoise of the sea.
Palms waved peacefully in the evening breeze, while joggers and dog-walkers passed by below. Managing to tear ourselves away from the idyllic scene below our window, we perused the menu while a plate of dips and crusty focaccia appeared as if by magic. It was tempting to polish off the dips with the nigella seed-encrusted bread but we ate conservatively, knowing we had to save our appetites for the coming storm of food. For the record, the dips were black olive tapenade, dried tomato, herbal mayonnaise, hot salsa and the classic Argentinean chimichurri – all great appetite stimulants.
For starters, I chose sautéed mushrooms (NIS 48), while my dining companion selected veal sweetbreads (NIS 85). Both dishes arrived piping hot, always a good thing. The mushrooms were served in the cast-iron pan in which they were cooked and were very tasty but could have been far less oily without losing flavor. As for the sweetbreads, they were sliced very thin, dipped in crumbs, fried and served with lemon. My companion appeared to enjoy every mouthful.
For the main course, I chose the braised chicken breast with a side of pureed potatoes. This can be a bland dish, so I appreciated the addition of black olives and tomatoes to liven it up (NIS 79). My companion picked lamb chops (NIS 180). The dish came with a cold cut-up baked potato – an odd garnish by any standard. However, the side of sweet potato fries was superb. Cut with a frilly edge, crispy, hot and totally addictive, we polished off the lot.
There was quite a wide selection of desserts, such as classic cream-based dishes like crème caramel and crème brulee, but we passed, knowing that these parve variations would be less appealing than the dairy version. However, the chocolate mousse (NIS 34) was excellent, very rich and chocolatey, and the passion fruit sorbet was refreshing and tangy (NIS 34).
We each had a glass of Merlot Harei Hagalil wine (NIS 30), which was very satisfactory, and ended our meal with a cup of hot, sweet mint water. When we got up to leave, there wasn’t an empty table in the entire restaurant.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
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Sun-Thurs, noon to midnight
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