A sweet, sweet kiss

Not unlike a certain movie villain, we started off with artichoke in olive oil with Ricotta cheese on the side.

shrimp 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
shrimp 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Zichron Ya'acov rules. I've loved this magical place since I was a child. I love the enchanting scenery of its environs, the mountains, the valley and the coast. But the charming houses and beautifully arranged streets secure Zichron in my heart. With the exception of Yossi Benayoun's superb soccer skills, it is the closest that one comes to Europe while still in Israel. The restaurant Haneshika, (The Kiss) located smack in the middle of the quaint pedestrian mall, is a perfect place to relax and tap into the Zichron vibe. We arrived two carnivores and two vegetarians (all four of us on our way to Kiryon, where Batman was appearing at the Imax). Immediately apparent was the establishment's beauty - a large patio adorned with plants, flowers and rustic lighting, a stone house for indoor seating complete with heavy, wrought iron furniture, a dark wood bar, walls lined with paintings by Gustav Klimt (the restaurant's name is derived from one of them) and a window into the adjacent winery where a house wine is fermented in huge metal vats. The classic design might have seemed pretentious in Tel Aviv but fit in beautifully with its local atmosphere. It was close to sunset and rather pleasant outside, complete with a casual if not refreshing breeze. We sipped a rosé Lambrusco (still okay for unisex enjoyment for some reason, despite its perpetual trendy status) and anticipated our food with vocalized delight. Disappointment was not seated at our table that day, my friends. Smiles plastered across all our faces, not unlike a certain movie villain, we started off with artichoke in olive oil with Ricotta cheese on the side (NIS 39), a rice salad with sprouts and sweet potatoes (NIS 41), shrimp in dried tomatoes and pepper sauce (NIS 59), a healthy roots salad (NIS 42), lamb wrapped in baked eggplant (NIS 52) and the house bread (NIS 16). All were so very delicious and perfect. Chef and owner Ronen Raviv had recently lost 20 kg and now makes all the food healthier, hence, he uses very little butter. Best to keep the term "deep frying" from view, hidden behind the exposed teeth of your delighted face. All the spices are harvested from his own garden - a point more than apparent in the fresh taste. We couldn't stop nibbling at the different salads, despite our strong desire to save room for all that was to come, and had to ask the waitress to clear what was left. Again we giddily chatted, not knowing what pleasures were about to arrive tableside. In the meantime, we took in the sight of the setting sun, viewed from in between the visible trees. I am happy to say that the main course options were as vegetarian friendly as the first courses. We had the bulghur risotto with mushrooms and green beans in a light tomato sauce (NIS 53) and the Mozzarella filled gnocchi (NIS 54). E, my vegetarian ladylove, loved the risotto in particular. The gnocchi was heavy and delicious. The carnivores seemed to enjoy themselves immensely on the oven-roasted lamb (NIS 98) and the seafood risotto (NIS 98). Actually, the flesh-eating gastronomes couldn't stop licking their fingers, even when Raviv sat with us for a chat. Desserts, I must inform, were the weak point of the meal. Both the apple pie and the chocolate soufflé lacked the intuitiveness and ingenuity of the other dishes, but we didn't mind. By the time we were even served this final course, all four of us had happily taken up residence in individual food-comas. Haneshika is located at 37 Hameyasdim St., Zichron Ya'acov, (04) 639-0133. It is open from Mon to Sat 8:30 a.m to 10:30 p.m. Closed Sundays; not kosher.