Galilee Table: Kosher Arab food pop up at the Prima - review

The NIS 190 per person all-you-can-eat menu includes copious serving of extremely good food and a shot of homemade Arak.

 Galilee Table (photo credit: AYA BEN-EZRI)
Galilee Table
(photo credit: AYA BEN-EZRI)

What are you doing on Thursday night? Feel like a drive up north? Galilee Table, a new kosher pop-up restaurant in the Prima Hotel in Tiberias, is open once a week for an outstanding kosher culinary experience.

The NIS 190 per person all-you-can-eat menu includes copious serving of extremely good food and a shot of homemade Arak. It’s excellent value for money, but what’s really unique is the type of food.

Excellent value, but unique and amazing food

For anyone who keeps kosher it’s hard to find authentic Arab food. Galilee Table is a chance to taste local Galilee Arab specialties. Both the chef and the general manager of the hotel are Arab citizens of Israel living in Galilee.

The tables are set with small jars of locally-grown olives as well as homemade za’atar mixed with sumac, one of the cornerstones of the Arab kitchen. The salads arrive at the table served in attractive ceramic dishes. Take my advice here. There is a lot more food to come, so even though you’re probably hungry after the long drive up to Tiberias, exercise some restraint or you won’t be able to get through the entire meal.

On our visit, the first salad to appear was humous msabbaha, runnier than most humous served in Jewish restaurants in Israel, and made from whole chickpeas and tehina. I kept tasting it over and over. It was served with pita baked in the tabun, but I also urge restraint when it comes to the bread.

 Galilee Table (credit: AYA BEN-EZRI) Galilee Table (credit: AYA BEN-EZRI)

Then there was humous with meat; tehina with parsley and garlic; a tomato salad with mint; grilled eggplant with tehina; tabuleh with almonds; Galileean potato salad and finally pieces of eggplant in a spicy tomato sauce. While some of these salads might be familiar to Israeli diners in grill restaurants, the spices used at Galilee Table were just different enough to be interesting.

If the salads taste homemade it’s because they are. In the kitchen, local women from nearby villages help prepare the food along with the chefs. The next course, called “Our Special Treats” included kubbeh stuffed with meat, fatayer stuffed with spinach, and mini-arais (grilled meat stuffed with bread).

After that things got even more interesting when the main dishes started arriving. First was kubbeh nayeh or raw kubbeh, a layer of cooked meat on top of a layer of raw meat mixed with burghul. It’s originally a Lebanese dish and something I’ve always wanted to try. I liked the taste and texture, but was a little nervous about the raw meat.

Other main dishes included vegetarian stuffed vegetables; mejadra made with lentils and burghul, instead of rice as in the Israeli version; siniyeh – chopped meat with tehina and tomatoes; chicken msakhen with sumac on a fried pita, another very typical Arab dish; and chicken makloubeh with chunks of eggplant and potatoes. It’s interesting that some of these dishes have made the crossover to the Israeli kitchen and others haven’t.

For dessert there was a semolina cake known as basbousa which I also know from Egypt, and kataif (little pancakes stuffed with walnuts that are traditionally eaten after the daily Ramadan fast).

The menu changes with the seasons to incorporate available local vegetables. Tables must be reserved in advance.

Galilee TablePrima Hotel, TiberiasAl-Khadayif 77Tel: (04) 660-8899Kashrut: Rabbanut Tiberias

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.