When I heard that a restaurant in Ashkelon called Linda had recently turned kosher, I called my friend Beth Newmark, who lives in Ashkelon and is a one-person cheerleading squad for life on the beach, and suggested a dinner date. Beth knew the place from its non-kosher former life but had never eaten there.
Chef and owner Micha Kourtzman, 34, told me he’s taking a chance by turning his well-known restaurant kosher but he wanted to be able to take Shabbat off, which he wasn’t able to do before.
He also said that the population of Ashkelon has become more traditional, including large numbers of French and English-speaking immigrants. So Kourtzman bought out his former partners and is giving it a go.
A self-taught chef who wants to take Shabbat off
He is a self-taught chef who has been cooking in various restaurants since he was 24. He said he kept the menu the same except for what he called his killer dishes, two of which we tried. We started with a Caesar salad (NIS 64), which I thought was the least successful of what we ate. It was advertised as having lettuce, crispy cucumber, croutons and pareve cheese in a Caesar dressing. The dressing was nice but I couldn’t find any croutons or cucumbers. It wasn’t a bad dish, just not very exciting.
The other two dishes we shared, however, made up for it. The smoked brisket (NIS 74) from the appetizer menu was a delicious dish of neck meat that had been smoked and served with homemade gnocchi on a bed of Jerusalem artichoke cream. My mouth is watering as I remember just how good this dish was.
The other surprise of the evening, which Micha insisted we try, was the “Linda Chicken Breast” (again, great name) (NIS 88). I rarely order chicken breast in a restaurant, as I usually want something that I can’t make at home, but Chef Micha insisted that this was one of his killer dishes. In short, he was right. The chicken is cooked sous vide so it is juicy and tender, and the marinade is delicious. Almost worth the shlep to Ashkelon on its own, but add in the beach and you’ve got a deal.
The lemon pie we shared for dessert was quite good but came from Biscotti, the caterer that provides desserts to many restaurants. Micha said he used to have a pastry chef making desserts for him but the baker recently opened his own place. I wish him the best of luck.
Oh, and why the name Linda? The original owners were from Argentina and Linda means beautiful in Spanish.
LindaAbba Ahimeir 5, AshkelonPhone: 08-684-2754Hours: Sunday-Wednesday noon–10:30 p.m.Thursday noon–1 a.m.Saturday night: opens an hour after Shabbat ends.Kashrut: Rabbanut Ashkelon.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.