A large and inviting space, the unusual interior was designed by his wife, Maya Gigi, and includes slightly surreal elements such as the Uri Geller-like bent forks on the ceiling and a spotted floor.
Invited to try out the luncheon menu, my companion and I sat at a table and waited to see what the powers-that-be would bring us. Having read the PR blurb we knew in advance that the great chef had been inspired by the food of his childhood and the different aromas wafting from the windows of Katamon in Jerusalem where he grew up.
Inspired by the food and aromas of Jerusalem's Katamon
Small plates of starters began to appear at our table and I counted at least nine although the standard meal includes five. The first was a specialty by Aviv’s co-chef, Esti Gross who created an unusual starter – a fresh loaf with dough baked around mincemeat; it was crispy and hot and made for a very original hors d’oeuvre. We didn’t find the strong cumin flavor overpowering although some newly-arrived immigrants might.
The other starters included avocado with fennel in a good vinaigrette, hot spinach with chick peas, bamia (okra), in tomato sauce, stuffed cabbage and vine leaves, tomato and carrot salads.
There were also empanadas, a kind of Argentinian Cornish pasty, filled with Meurav Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Mix), which usually includes bits of offal – spleen, heart and liver. I tried not to think about the details and enjoyed the dish.
Having done considerable justice to the starters, we now faced several main courses, the first being kubbeh in a yellow consommé. Kubbeh are a kind of dumpling made usually from bulgur or semolina and filled with minced meat. We were told it was based on a Kurdish recipe. The large amount of turmeric that made it so yellow was a bonus as it is, apparently, a very healthy spice. The dish is very popular in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market and the chef calls this menu his Mahaneh Yehuda menu.
Other mains we dipped into were chicken sofrito and a dish of wheat with head meat which took us back to when we made aliyah in November 1973 and that was the only meat we could afford. Another main was chicken with roast potatoes which were almost as good as mine.
The wine accompanying this feast was a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (2019) made especially for the restaurant at the Leuria winery. As my husband commented “It’s rich but not too heavy, making it just right for a lunch as it won’t put you to sleep.”
Dessert was a small and not too sweet seasonal donut and a date pastry with a hot tea which was about all we could consume at this point.
The cost of this tasting menu is NIS 69 for club members and NIS 79 for nonmembers. A glass of wine adds another NIS 9.
After eating, you can shop at Aviv’s deli and take home all the things you ate plus many more including top-quality oils, vinegars and spices. For a great culinary experience, head over to Piano and see for yourself.
The Happicerie,10 Shoshana Damari Street,Piano Mall, Netanya.(09) 970-8888Open: Sunday-Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.Kashrut: Netanya Rabbinate
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.