River: A terrific meal that was worth the trip to Or Yehuda - review

The menu offered various starters and main courses, plus, naturally, sushi in all its different guises, so we left the choices of food to the staff.

 River (photo credit: ASSAF KARLA)
(photo credit: ASSAF KARLA)

Ubiquitous, an overworked adjective, is yet the only one to describe the River chain of restaurants, which has 11 branches around the country.

Out of these, six are kosher, which is gratifying. We were happy to wend our way to Or Yehuda to sample the fare.

While I’m not a huge fan of MK Bezalel Smotrich, whose past remarks on gays were indescribably offensive, he did one good thing in his life: as transportation minister he created the motorway lane exclusively for cars with two people or more. This meant that it took only 40 minutes to get to Or Yehuda from Netanya.

We were greeted by the manager, Yarim, and settled down to peruse the menu. It was only in Hebrew, but plans are afoot to have it translated, and the staff members are all very helpful and pleasant, and able to interpret if necessary.

 River (credit: ASSAF KARLA) River (credit: ASSAF KARLA)

How was the food at this Israeli restaurant?

The menu offered various starters and main courses, plus, naturally, sushi in all its different guises, so we left the choices of food to the staff.

Our starters were a River Salad (NIS 44) and Som Tam (41). The salad consists mostly of marvelous Salanova leaves with the house dressing. Salanova is a new lettuce, developed in Holland, and has an “enhanced” taste. The Som Tam is a salad of shredded fruit and vegetables, including green papaya, mango, cherry tomatoes, mint and coriander, and is dressed with spicy chili and cashew nuts. Slightly acidic, it is a very fresh and flavorful salad.

Next to arrive at our table were rolls made from rice paper filled with chopped meat, tuna and vegetables, served with a ponzu sauce (NIS 52 for four). These were another welcome addition to what was becoming a meal of exciting and unusual flavors.

Naturally the manager wanted us to sample his sushi, and we had no objection. As I have mentioned before, sushi is a brilliant food, containing protein, carbohydrate and vitamins in its tiny format. It’s aesthetic and, most of all, tastes great.

A word on chopsticks. My dining companion is able to wield them with the same skill and panache he displays with his scalpel. I just can’t get the hang of it and usually end up, rather ignominiously, using a fork.

There were four different kinds of sushi, with ingredients varying from raw salmon and tuna to pieces of battered and deep-fried fish. One was bright purple (dipped in chopped red cabbage) and one was coated with crispy rice cereal (NIS 52).

Our shared main course was Dan Dan Noodles (NIS 67), a bowl of wheat noodles, quite thick and round, with spicy mincemeat, peanuts and chili Szechuan sauce. It was very good but perhaps oilier than I would have liked.

As though all this were not enough, we also got to taste steamed buns filled with asado and dipped into one of four sauces, which included sweet chili and chimichurri.

From the English dessert menu, we chose the “Ferrero Rocher” imitation, a chocolate ball filled with soft chocolate cream meant to approximate the famous candy. It went very well with the two Japanese teas at the end of the meal.

Yes, it was quite a long way to go, but definitely worth it.

River3 Ariel SharonOr YehudaTel. (03) 910-6201Open: Sunday-Thursday, 12 noon-11 p.m.; Friday – closed. Saturday – after Shabbat until midnight.Kashrut: Or Yehuda Rabbinate

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.