Papagaio: Mountains of meat in Herzliya - review

At Papagaio the food is inspired by South American cuisine, and specifically Brazilian cooking. It’s a carnivore’s paradise.

 Papagaio (photo credit: ALEX DEUTSCH)
Papagaio
(photo credit: ALEX DEUTSCH)

We’ve always had a soft spot for Papagaio in Herzliya, which has been around for over 20 years. It’s even the name of our family WhatsApp group, given by our granddaughter Lishai (mother of our adored great-grandson Noam), since my husband is known in the family as Papa.

So an invitation to check out the offerings at this popular seaside eatery was just what we fancied.

The view from the restaurant windows is totally picturesque and enchanting – the Herzliya marina with dozens of yachts moored there and others bobbing around in the nearby Mediterranean. Homer’s “wine-dark” sea is today a vivid turquoise, and just looking at it gives one an appetite.

The figurative red carpet was out in force when we arrived for lunch one day recently. Welcoming us was the franchise owner, Avi Zacharov, who graduated from chef to owner, and Idan Shalom, the manager of the restaurant, who was brought in to raise the standard of the food and service, after several complaints from dissatisfied customers had appeared on social media. The restaurant underwent a complete renovation following these comments.

At Papagaio the food is inspired by South American cuisine, and specifically Brazilian cooking. It’s a carnivore’s paradise. Avi offered to bring us a platter of grilled meats made up of smaller quantities than usual so we could get a good idea of the variety available.

 Papagaio (credit: ALEX DEUTSCH) Papagaio (credit: ALEX DEUTSCH)

The first item to appear at our table was an ice-cold bottle of mineral water (Neviot) with glasses filled with ice cubes and lemon garnish – a very welcome sight on a hot June day.

The first course was of several salads and a hot fresh pita with pesto and s’hug for dipping. The homemade pesto was very good, but the s’hug was too hot even for our seasoned palates. Perhaps you have to be born Yemenite to eat it that hot.

The six salads included hummus and tehina, beetroot and carrot, eggplant and matbuha (tomato and red pepper mix). All were as fresh as can be, some quite sweet, all rather oily but just the job for taking the edge off one’s appetite (NIS 59 at dinner, free at business lunch).

The selection of grilled meats included lamb chops, very meaty and tender, steak, kebabs, chorizo sausage and pargit. All the meat was expertly cooked and well seasoned. My favorite was the fat yummy chorizo sausage.

There were also two kinds of french fries, rice with haricot beans and a fresh green salad.

To drink with the meal we chose a half-bottle of 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Golan Heights Winery’s Gamla series (NIS 80). I had to break my self-imposed rule of no alcohol before 6 p.m., but it was worth it – a mellow, mature, full-bodied wine with hints of cocoa and fresh herbs (quote from the bottle, not my own purple prose).

We were touched by our waiter confessing that he could not open the bottle for us, as he was not Sabbath-observant. In spite of our protestations, he insisted, so my husband opened it with his usual panache.

To end this incredible meal the chef produced a chocolate dream dessert – something like a chocolate volcano with a spongy exterior and lashings of chocolate syrup within. It was as delicious as it sounds.

We said goodbye to our hosts, even managed some shopping in the adjacent Nautica store, before staggering home for a well-earned rest.

PapagaioKosher, Herzliya Rabbinate2 Hashunit, Arena MallHerzliya Pituah(09) 956-4000Open Sunday-Wednesday, 12 noon-10 p.m.; Thursday, 12 noon-11 p.m.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.