There is a corner of Petah Tikva that is forever Japan, to paraphrase Rupert Brooke. The decor at Nini Choo, the brand-new Japanese restaurant, is awash with bleached wood-frame room dividers, cherry blossom glass art and likenesses of Madame Butterfly everywhere.
Although it has been open for only six weeks, Nini Choo – established by the owners of the well-known and loved Nini Hachi in Tel Aviv – was doing a roaring trade when we visited one day last week.
The extensive cocktail menu was the second-most welcome item to reach our table, the first being a jug of ice water and glasses. I chose a Yuzu Sour, which came in a large colorful mug topped with mustard leaves. It resembled a gin and orange in flavor and had a gentle kick. My companion chose Flamen, a pungent mix of jasmine tea and plum wine (cocktails NIS 48).
We left the choice of food to our hosts and began our meal with gyosa and won-ton. The gyosa are a form of dumpling filled with minced chicken and plenty of garlic, steamed, then grilled (NIS 41), while the won-ton are made from similar dough and fried (NIS 38). Both are reminiscent of our kreplach eaten traditionally on Rosh Hashanah in the chicken soup. Both dishes were very good and a great start to our meal.
My companion chose filet steak (NIS 138) with a side of roasted vegetables, including mushrooms and red and green peppers. The meat was very tender, and the vegetables al dente – a perfect bonding.
I plumped for the noodle soup – a massive bowl of chicken soup with chunks of chicken breast plus a variety of veggies, including cabbage. It had a spicy finish, distinguishing it from our homegrown variety and was far too huge a portion to finish (NIS 48).
The salad was made from unripened papaya, with carrots and peanuts (NIS 36). It was crunchy, peppery and certainly made a change from lettuce and cucumber.
As well as ice water, we drank a carafe of sake, which was the perfect accompaniment to the Japanese flavors. By the way, there are loads of sushi options as one might expect, but we avoided them, having overdosed on sushi recently.
Our helpful waitress – a lovely moonlighting student – brought us two desserts.
One was a large bowl of tapioca and other anonymous things floating around in it, and the less said about this old nursery favorite the better.
However, the four ice cream scoops encased in a rice-based envelope were acceptable. Four different flavors in four different colors made for an aesthetic and slightly sweet ending for a very unusual meal.
Nini Choo18 Hasivim StreetPetah Tikva(03) 518-3333Open: Sunday-Thursday, 12 noon-11:30 p.m.; after Shabbat – until 11:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday – closed.Kosher, Petah Tikva Rabbinate.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.