Dining Review: Kosher Israeli-Asian fusion

Maybe because of the many who travel to the Far East, Israelis have developed a liking for Asian food in the past few years, and many eateries have sprung up all over the country.

Maybe because of the many who travel to the Far East, Israelis have developed a liking for Asian food in the past few years, and many eateries have sprung up all over the country. Some of these specialize in authentic Thai, Japanese or Chinese cuisine, others in fusion cuisine (combining all three), and still others serve only sushi. Some are upscale venues, some offer take-away fast food, and others are simply good, unpretentious restaurants that serve wholesome fare. Teriyaki sushi and grill bar in Petah Tikva is one such eaterie - a kosher fusion restaurant in its third year of operation and going strong. Situated in a fairly new neighborhood at Park Azorim, Teriyaki is one of three restaurants in the pleasant building complex - all owned by the same family. The decor is simple - brown wooden tables, a long bar and a few Asian artifacts lining the walls. Lighting is subdued, and rows of candles adorn the windowsills and tables. There is also an LCD screen displaying the dishes listed on the menu, so if you're not sure what a dish will look like, you can see it on the screen. In the summer, the patio is open and you can dine outside in full view of a pond and waterfall. Ofer Agasi, who has been the executive chef for two years, says he prepares "Asian food with many Israeli touches." "If a Chinese person came here, he'd laugh at me a bit," Agasi jokes. "I like to play with sauces and tastes, with a mixture of sweet and sour. I am an Israeli, but I worked with Japanese chefs, so I have a Japanese background." Agasi, who studied at Tadmor Hotel School in Herzliya and previously worked at The Orient Express, says he makes really good sushi "with all kinds of original combinations," but he chooses to teach someone else to prepare it. "I can teach anyone," he says. "The current sushi chef was a construction worker. He worked with tiles. I hired him two weeks ago." He notes that all the beef, which is brought from Merkaz Habasar in Jerusalem, is glatt kosher. Still, the restaurant is not considered glatt yet; its kashrut license is from the Petach Tikva rabbinate. After a complimentary glass of home-made plum wine with lychee, we were ready to start our meal. There was nothing to fault in the sushi; the ingredients were fresh and the rice had a good consistency. But the accompanying sauce was cloyingly sweet, so sticking to the wasabi and soy sauce is recommended. The beef and salmon skewers were also tasty, but once again, the accompanying sauces were a little on the sweet side. As for the main courses, Agasi may be a tad too enthusiastic and innovative. Most of the dishes had too much "fusion" and there seemed to be just too many ingredients and conflicting tastes. The chicken noodle dish, for example, looked really appetizing, but we were perplexed as to what Agasi was trying to achieve. More confusion than fusion. The chicken, smoked goose breast, peas, corn, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, and noodles in soy-and-chili sauce were just too much. The grilled fillet of beef with mashed sweet potato and fried onions in soya was also "too fusion." The strong conflicting tastes of the onions and potato detracted from the grilled flavor of the meat. The soy chicken breast and rice in coconut milk, on the other hand, was delicate, simple and perfectly spiced. Asian cuisine is not renowned for its desserts, but Agasi has come up with a couple of winners: Belgian waffles with ice cream and fried cinnamon, and sugared tortilla triangles with vanilla ice cream and a wild berry coulis. Teriyaki does not serve haute cuisine, nor does it aspire to, and the prices reflect this. It serves decent Asian fusion food in a nice atmosphere with friendly service. First courses are from NIS 20 to NIS 26, salads from NIS 28 to NIS 41, vegetarian dishes from NIS 34 to NIS 42, main courses NIS 41 to NIS 78, sushi dishes from NIS 15 to NIS 118 for a 24-piece platter, and desserts are NIS 25. Teriyaki, Park Azorim, Em Hamashavot 94, Kiryat Arieh, Petah Tikva, (03) 923-6550. Kosher. Open Sunday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight. Take away is available.