It's not often that I make it up to Zichron Ya'acov. After all, there are so many great places in Tel Aviv to eat that it seems a sin to arrive to an eatery by way of the internal combustion engine. But now and again, one must leave the bubble and brave the Israeli beast that lies beyond. Thank god for Zichron.
While most visitors end up along the quaint town's cute pedestrian mall - which is fine if you eat at Haneshika - a bit of a ways off this beaten path (about a 20 minute walk to be specific) one will find the newest addition to the area's culinary seen, Adama.
Recently opened, the family run establishment is housed in an old stone building that used to function as stables. This is old Zichron, which is to say, the original agricultural settlement and, as such, it offers a completely different experience than the Zichron that is normally encountered. The structure, lovingly restored and designed by Yaron Tal, offers a whimsical environment in which to enjoy chef Udi Asraf's provincial Mediterranean menu.
Arriving with my lady friend just prior to sunset, we took a few minutes to sit on a bench just near the entrance to enjoy that magical transition from light to dark. We then entered Adama, already with the notion that our evening was about to take a turn for the enchanted.
We were warmly greeted and seated outside, happily ready to take advantage of the spectacular air and gorgeous night. Upon the suggestion of the house, we started with the 2007 Somek Chardonnay, we were overly impressed with its accessibility. The wine menu itself is lovingly composed of about 80 varieties with a strong emphasis on Israeli bottles. What is available from abroad is chosen due to its absence on the local market.
First to arrive at our table was the house bread. So very hearty, ripping off each bite to alternately dip in the rich olive oil and uber-tasty balsamic vinegar and the delicious sundried tomato tapenade.
While the menu is divided between firsts and mains, there is less variation in size between courses due to Adama's philosophy - family style dining with smaller than usual dishes for sharing and wide variety of tastes and flavors. We began with the seafood soup consisting of a simple tomato base with fresh mussels and calamari. The tomato broth, in the Spanish style according to the chef, so so simple, yet so fresh that we could hardly believe how enjoyable it was on a summer's night.
We also had the seviche of sea fish with fruit, sesame oil, lemon, shallots and nana (NIS 38). Also, with lettuce, the dish was rather salad-like. But it had me at sesame oil. And, we sampled the seared shrimp with camembert and saffron cream in an artichoke (NIS 56). Already, established as one of Adama's signature dishes, the artichokes are one of the few non-local ingredients, imported from Italy.
For our main courses we had the musar fish fillet, baked, on a ragu of date tomatoes with fresh coriander and fried gnocchi (NIS 46). This dish was wonderful, though we were curious as to the location of the gnocchi. And the medallions of entrecote with baked celery root and leek (NIS 72). Two large medallions were presented, one decidedly rare and both were severely tasty, which was alright with me.
For dessert we had the lemon verbena panna cotta topped with a citrus gelatin layer. The verbena was from the herb garden surrounding the outdoor veranda, adding to dish's delicious mystique. Finally, we concluded with the passionfruit soup with citrus gelatin and coconut sorbet (NIS 28). In actuality the soup was more watermelon than passionfruit, for some reason, but the sorbet was just insane.
Adama makes the already worthwhile trip to Zichron that much more so. The food and atmosphere it offers is a true gift and it's deservingly already become a beloved institution.
Adama - 8 Ma'ale Rishonim, Zichron Ya'acov; (04) 629-3183 - is open Mon.-Sat. From 6:30 p.m. to the last customer. Not kosher. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
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