Oasis in the (not quite) desert

Winner of this year’s Chef Restaurant of the Year, Cramim may be a little off the beaten track but is well worth the trip

Cramim 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cramim 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Approaching Cramim, located at the entrance to Moshav Segula on the road between Tel Aviv and Beersheba, I felt as if I had arrived at just another rest stop in the middle of nowhere. It is far enough south for those who religiously stick to Jerusalem and the center of the country for their fill of high-quality gastro experiences to just disregard it while driving by on the way to a trip in the desert or a stay at a Dead Sea hotel.
However, once I parked the car, got over the fact that I was well out of my comfort zone and walked through the tree-lined passageway to the restaurant itself, I realized I had come to a very special place. This little oasis in the middle of the desert (well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but for a city boy like me it sure did feel like it) is a charming rustic spot that could be anywhere in the world.
Cramim, winner of Channel 10’s Chef Restaurant of the Year 2010 award, is celebrating its eighth year of business under the direction of head chef Sahar Rafael. It offers great quality bistro food at affordable prices.
After taking our seats (I took my mum – I know it’s not the height of coolness but when it comes to food, who knows more than a good Jewish mother, and who can be the most critical!) in the homey dining area, we were offered wine from a comprehensive list and decided on a bottle of Sion Golan white.
For the first starter, we tucked into what can only be described as a sailing boat coming toward us of a selection of Tomme cheeses deep fried in a nut crust on a bed of Turkish corn served with red pears cooked in wine and finished off with a mixed citrus yogurt sauce (NIS 43.) In the time it probably took you just to read the above description, we had consumed the dish and licked the plates clean with a chunk of immensely tasty rosemary bread. We were so engrossed by the nautical offering, that we almost overlooked the second starter of grilled mixed mushrooms cooked in a creamy white wine sauce (NIS 39) that was waiting for us on the table. I am not usually a huge fan of everyone’s favorite fungus, but this selection of Portobello, champignon and wild mushrooms had just the right amount of smoky grilled aroma and other great flavors.
Sea bream served with a heart of grilled eggplants placed on a bed of asparagus (NIS 89) was the one of the main courses. The aphrodisiac asparagus really countered the abundance of eggplant that may put some off.
The term “saving the best to last” is the only way I can describe the second main course. Fillet steak topped with fois gras and shrimps (NIS 119.) Sound a bit over the top? It was. This dish alone is worth a trip to Cramim. Seriously – go now! I can still taste it melting in my mouth.
The sweet offerings did not match the previous two courses and, coming from someone who would have dessert for all three courses if he could, that is saying something. But having said that, I must also say that they were not bad at all and provided the sugar fix needed to end the meal. The Kadaif nest filled with white chocolate cream and berries (NIS 36) was fun, but the chocolate mousse (NIS 33) was nothing special.
Don’t let the fancy names of the dishes fool you – this restaurant offers hearty food served in a relaxed, family-friendly environment with excellent service and very good value for your money. I will be returning. As soon as possible. In fact, I am already planning my next trip down south so I can make a stop at Cramim on the way there, and maybe even the way back.
Cramim is located at the entrance to Moshav Segula, near the Tel Aviv- Beersheba highway (Route 40), about halfway between the two cities, 8 km south of Kastina Junction. Open every day 9 a.m to midnight. Breakfast served until noon. Business lunches served until 5 p.m. Tel: (08) 850-5859. Website: www.rest.co.il/cramim. Not kosher.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant