When the meat hits your eye

The higher-quality neighborhood restaurant specializes in eastern-style meats and delicious salads, but features cream-based sauces.

meat 224.88 (photo credit: )
meat 224.88
(photo credit: )
Fresco Meat-Bar is not for the weak of stomach - or of appetite. The higher-quality neighborhood restaurant specializes in eastern-style meats and delicious salads, but features cream-based sauces, a decidedly rich accompaniment for the intense meats. Chef Eliezer Leviah returned to Rehovot after 30 years, bought the space adjunct to Karlberg Meat Market, and added high ceilings, low-hanging lights and jumbo prints of marketplaces around the world. And, Fresco was born. The restaurant was nearly filled to capacity the Saturday afternoon I visited with my dining partner. We managed to get a table with comfortable wicker chairs on the porch. Off to a good start, the meal began with a self-serving salad and antipasto bar. It featured everything from lentil salad with lemon dressing to grilled eggplant and seafood. Most distinct were the grilled sweet potato wedges, which were sweet without being too sugary, and a just-smoked-enough Palamida fish. For first course, our waitress recommended eggplant and veal melangia in pesto sauce. My carnivorous friend was impressed from the first forkful. Stacked slices of veal and fried eggplant were covered in a cream-based pesto sauce. Though the meat was a bit uninspired, it let the sauce stand out and become the focus of the dish. We also had fried leek latkes with sour cream, which were bland but had a fantastically crunchy breaded crust. Cold sour cream was a smart addition, but leek is boring by definition and required a lot more spice. Our waitress was sweet, but a bit clueless, and in response to our inquiry about beef pelmeni with fried onion said, "It's like… I don't know. I'm bad at describing things." She did eventually bring another waitress to the table to clarify our various questions, but my dining partner was surprised when a plate of beef-stuffed pasta drenched in heavy cream sauce landed in front of her. A few bites in, the veteran eater decided the pelmeni was too heavy and put her fork down. She found the meat too bland and said it did not mix with the cream sauce well. The penne alfredo with crimini mushrooms, the sole vegetarian entrée on the menu, fared better because of its lighter sauce and bits of Parmesan sprinkled on top. Fresco's kitchen did not mess with a classic, but did jazz it up a bit with ground black pepper that exploded in the mouth when chewed for a much-needed burst of spice. Dessert was the true highlight: a cheese parfait with lemon zest that tasted like the cheesecake batter you licked off the spoon when mom wasn't looking. Also, there was a brandy-infused nut brownie, sliced into two thin rectangles and covered in runny chocolate sauce (delicious in its own right), but too rich after the meal. Our meal was accompanied by a pair of mojitos made strong with good-quality lemon juice and reminiscent of a quality spring break - the way mojitos should be. At Fresco, Tuesday nights are Game Nights. Leviah cooks up rabbit, porcupine and other meats brought back from the hunt, meaning the Karlberg Meats grocer next door. According to the chef, this is an unforgettable experience. No doubt. There are also Thirsty Thursdays, when the bar offers many more creations and amusing drunkards abound. Just last week, Leviah said, a group of four grown men had a few too many beers and all wet themselves, leaving a puddle around their table. We laughed, hoped they had not been sitting in our chairs and appreciated the seemingly lax bathroom policy. We left the restaurant stepping into the hot Rehovot sun, not sure if we could make it to the car with our stomachs so heavy. Fresco offered decent food and an overall good experience. Those seeking something a bit more distinct should head downtown to the cafes and bars situated along Herzl Street or to the Science Park. Or just come to Rehovot more than once. Fresco Meat and Bar, 23 Hertzel St., Rehovot, (08) 934-9788. First courses NIS 25, salad bar free with any main course (otherwise NIS 35), main courses NIS 39-98 and dessert NIS 29. Handicap accessible. Not kosher.