(photo credit: GREEN CAFE)
A compound dominated by a gas station and car wash seems an unlikely place for a leisurely meal or family brunch. But under the hands-on ownership of Yaffa Kerem, Green Cafe has burgeoned from merely a conveniently located eatery popular among drivers traveling on the coastal highway into a restaurant favored by residents of the suburbs north of Netanya.
Green Cafe derives its name in part from the shrubbery that surrounds it, distinguishing it from the convenience store to which it is annexed. But primarily what sets it apart from an ordinary service station snack bar is the quality of the food; Kerem makes a point of inviting top chefs from Tel Aviv into her kitchen every couple of years to review and refresh the menu.
The English-language menu, available upon request, details Green Cafe’s breakfasts, lunches and early dinners; the restaurant does not stay open much past 7 p.m. Specially priced “business” meals are served weekdays until 6 p.m.
A good place to begin here is with the soup of the day (NIS 34) – in our case, bean soup. This mizrahi version is savory, hearty and very satisfying.
Next came leek “latkes” on a bed of eggplant cream, drizzled with a feta-yogurt sauce (NIS 44). The fritters were beautifully presented and perfectly fried: crispy on the outside, velvety on the inside and nicely enhanced by the yogurt and eggplant. Like many of the dishes at Green Cafe, it is accompanied by a green salad.
In addition, there are excellent salads as main courses.
One is the colorful quinoa salad (NIS 49): a generous mound of the healthful grain topped with julienned beets and studded with green herbs, toasted almonds and dried cranberries. The yellow tahini dressing gets its hue from turmeric, the subtle seasoning nicely rounding out the salad’s interplay of flavors and textures.
The chicken salad is another good choice (NIS 56): a large bowl of mixed greens, olives, cucumber and cherry tomatoes is smothered in warm strips of chicken breast that have been sauteed together with red peppers in a delicate Asian sauce. Garnishes of crispy onion and undertones of balsamic dressing complete the dish.
The house sandwich (NIS 36) bears the restaurant’s name but gives no hint of its contents, until one reads the description: chicken breast, roasted eggplant and baby greens on a multi-grain seeded roll. The secrets to the sandwich’s success lie in its secondary ingredients: raisins, which add a welcome touch of sweetness, and a herbed aioli and sundried tomato spread which moistens the bread. This fine medley of flavors truly deserves to be called the Green Cafe Sandwich.
Nevertheless, according to Kerem, the roast beef ciabatta (NIS 36) vies with the house sandwich in popularity. Slices of delicious roast beef are layered with roasted peppers, hard-boiled egg, pickles and lettuce on a torpedo roll spread with spicy aioli. You won’t find a better roast beef sandwich in a deli.
We washed down our sandwiches with natural carrot and orange juices that were squeezed freshly on the premises. Assorted juices are included as the beverage in the daily lunch special, or they can be ordered separately for NIS 16.
Tempting desserts (NIS 32) are on display in a refrigerated case, of which we chose two. The Americanstyle cream cheese cake sprinkled with powdered sugar proved to be a rich treat.
Meanwhile, the exquisitely sculpted chocolate trio cake was a very pleasant surprise: a light delight that melts in the mouth and is guilt-free, since it is made without sugar.
Both desserts were paired nicely with Green Cafe’s house coffee by Mauro (NIS 13).
Finally, it’s worth checking out the table stocked with the restaurant’s private-label bakery goods to take home, including sugar-free and flourless options.
Havazelet Interchange, Route 2, Havazelet Hasharon
Tel. (09) 866-3032