Where do you like to dine out when the temperature is soaring and you can’t face anything too heavy? The answer, for me anyway, is to dine out on Japanese food, which is perfect for our climate – light, full of vegetables and flavor, but which, after a full meal, leaves you feeling satisfied, but not bloated.
It’s been a few years since we visited Nini Choo in Petah Tikva, not far from where my dining companion has worked for more than 40 years at Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Hospital.
Just walking into the glass-walled restaurant, with pictures of cherry blossoms, geishas, and other Japanese motifs, makes you feel cool, in every sense of the word.
Eating delicious Japanese food in Israel
The menu, in English as well as Hebrew, is quite extensive and we were spoiled for choice. We declined a cocktail, it being early afternoon, and instead drank refreshing iced beer and shandy.
For our starters, we selected a dish of asparagus, mushrooms, and some gyozas – a Japanese steamed dumpling filled with diced chicken and looking and tasting not unlike our very own kreplach.
The asparagus was fresh and cooked al dente, and there were at least three varieties of mushrooms, including the tiny ones with long stems, the supermarket standard ones, and what must have been a huge Portobello, sliced into chunks.
This was a great dish to open our meal, as it was very low in calories but high in taste. We detected garlic and ginger among the flavors and it was also a very generous amount that we didn’t manage to finish (NIS 55).
The second starter consisted of gyoza, pretty little bundles of dough filled with generous amounts of fried chicken. Of course, everything was doused in soy sauce, which I personally consider the Far East’s greatest contribution to humanity.
A third starter made its appearance, and this was ostensibly a salad, but among the lettuce were many pieces of fried chicken, making it more like a main course. It had a very unusual dressing which we were told was made from miso and tehina, a great combination (NIS 44).
FOR MY main course, I chose sushi, which I have always loved. I think of it as a small and aesthetic packet of healthy and tasty food. These were tuna and salmon tataki with a slice of raw salmon on the top and innards of avocado, tuna, and rice.
Having tried with the chopsticks and having the food drop in my lap a few times, I gave up and ate them, somewhat ignominiously, with a fork.
My companion’s main dish was a beef curry with plenty of tossed vegetables and tender bits of beef. There was far too much, even for him, so I helped out. It was very spicy, a superb curry. Tastes of coconut and peanut butter could be detected in the strong flavor.
By this time, rather replete, we agreed to one dessert and two spoons, but our waiter, very charming and professional, insisted on bringing two, a lemon pie and creme brulee. The pie was pure essence of lemon on a crumb base and was simply divine.
The creme brulee was not at all bad for a pareve version of this classic dessert, with a nicely burnt top above and red syrup below. An interesting addition was green crumble made by adding macha, a Japanese spice.
To end this banquet we drank mint water, which helped to settle everything nicely in its place.
If you love Japanese food, this is the place. And if you’ve never tried it, now is the time!
Nini Choo18 Hasivim St., Petah TikvaHours: Sunday-Thursday, 12 p.m.-11:30 p.m.; Friday, 12 p.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.Kashrut: Rabbinate Petah TikvaNini Choo is wheelchair-accessible.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.