Provence in the Galilee

A visit to Yehuda and Rosa in Moshav Ilaniya is well worth the trip.

Yehuda and Rosa in Moshav Ilaniya (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yehuda and Rosa in Moshav Ilaniya
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Located in an authentic farm courtyard that includes a storehouse and farm buildings from the early days of the settlement in the Lower Galilee, Yehuda and Rosa, a butcher shop and restaurant, is housed in what was a family home built more than 100 years ago.
Yehuda and Rosa Arav were the parents of entrepreneurs Amos and Amir Arav, who now operate the business. Guests arriving at the site pass through the vegetable garden that extends over the entire farm courtyard.
For someone like me who grew up on the stories of the legends of the Hashomer organization, considered the grandfather of the IDF, the visit to Yehuda and Rosa’s place in Moshav Ilaniya, where Hashomer first settled, was moving and even felt somehow nostalgic.
Walking into the walled garden and looking at the old family photos on the walls, I had to remind myself that although when looking back at those times we may imagine it as heroic and romantic, in reality it was more hardship and very hard work.
Yehuda Arav, who came from Hebron with his young bride, Rosa, who had followed him from Jaffa, built their home on Moshav Ilaniya and surrounded it with a thick stone wall as was the custom then, protecting the family and the property, including livestock and a small vegetable patch, from intruders.
Years passed and their son, Avraham, who was famous in the Galilee for his bravery, married and had children in the very same house.
Amos Arav was born in the house and now, together with his lovely wife, Niva, greets visitors and takes them on a tour of the house and yard, telling stories of days gone by with a lot of love and respect for their elders.
The vegetable patch is still there – rows and rows of cauliflower, eggplant, asparagus, herbs and peppers, all of which are served in the restaurant, located in Yehuda Arav’s old house.
The freshest food is being prepared by chef Anton, who works his magic in a spotless kitchen.
Sitting areas are spread around the house – either in semi-private corners or on the porch. Guests are invited to stroll around the house and look at the antique furniture, original painted floors and old photos hanging on the walls.
My dining companion and I chose to sit for a while on the porch to enjoy the fresh cool evening air of the Galilee. When we returned to our table, we found a few salads made from vegetables grown in the patch.
They included green salad, a mushroom and cherry tomato salad with pecorino cheese and walnuts, roasted eggplant in tomato sauce and cauliflower with a crunchy crust, served with freshly made basil pesto and green tahini (NIS 27-44). All that and freshly baked country bread served with spreads (NIS 21) was almost enough but, well, it was only the beginning.
A country pate of lamb served with homemade plum jam was very good and ended the first part of our dinner.
We had to ask our hosts to give us some time before serving any more food. Another short stroll in the garden helped us recuperate and get ready for some more of Anton’s creations. But he was not very happy about that. A seasoned chef who worked in various top restaurants around the country, he decided that he had to give us a taste of his home brewed wheat-beer, which was fresh and very good.
Meat is taken very seriously here, and the owners traveled to Korea to find round table grills, which they embedded in the tables. The grills are designed so that smoke is sucked away so guests can enjoy grilling the meats at the table without the smoke and smells that usually accompany barbecuing.
We left it to our host to decide what to bring to our grill. That was a good decision, as we got the mixed grill (NIS 145), which included perfect lamb patties, fillet of veal, entrecote and more. We had a bite of the osso buco (NIS 95) cooked with root vegetables, which was tender and delicious.
Anton also brews his own apple cider, which I highly recommend.
One of us is never satisfied without dessert, no matter how much food is served, so we sampled the homemade vanilla ice cream with silan (NIS 28) and halva, as well as a fantastic crème brulee (NIS 34).
The combination of the food and atmosphere at Yehuda and Rosa makes the place feel as close to a true country-style French dining experience as one can get in Israel. All in all, we spent more than three hours there and enjoyed every moment. If you go there, do take your time. And don’t miss the tour. It is well worth it.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Yehuda and Rosa Restaurant – Butcher Shop Not kosher Moshav Ilaniya (04) 676-9159; 054-471-6393 Sunday to Saturday 12:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.