French flair

When she made aliya from France with her husband, Michal (Mimi) Sinai Sinelnikoff turned to baking.

Mimi Sinai Sinelnikoff in kitchen 521 (photo credit: Barry A. Kaplan)
Mimi Sinai Sinelnikoff in kitchen 521
(photo credit: Barry A. Kaplan)
Paris-born Michal (Mimi) Sinai Sinelnikoff says she grew up between two slices of mille-feuille (puff pastry). “When I was small, every day my grandmother took me from school and brought me to a bakery. She would ask me what I wanted to eat for tea time. I would say, ‘I want mille-feuille. It was my favorite pastry.’”
Now, bustling around her restaurant and kitchen, Bistro Mimi, in a red checked pinafore/apron over her modest top and skirt and wearing a head covering, Sinelnikoff is the epitome of a gracious, energetic, warm and attentive hostess.
How it started
Sinelnikoff says she was influenced “especially by my grandmother, who was a very good baker. What I bake and cook is very difficult, but she cooked and we ate two meals a day.”
Her family was very affluent, and they bought the best meat and fish. But as she grew up, she didn’t think of food as a career.
After high school, she attended the Pierre and Marie Curie University (the largest scientific and medical complex in France) and graduated with a degree in physics and biology. It was during this time that she met Shmuel at a Jewish club, “and we fell in love and are still in love,” she exclaims in her very sweet French accent.
After graduation, she taught 18-year-olds, preparing them for their baccalaureate, the high-school graduation certificate. She and Shmuel married in 1988. A few years later they began “to make a return, to being religious.”
“My husband decided we had to go to Israel, and I said I didn’t want to be a teacher. I had always baked for the family, so I went to learn baking at the LeNotre Culinary Institute.” (The LeNotre family is considered the leading bakers and caterers in France.)
Mimi and Shmuel and their son and three daughters made aliya in 1997. A few years later, Sinelnikoff began teaching French baking privately.
“We moved to an apartment with a very big kitchen, but in August 2010 we decided to open a restaurant, Bistro Mimi.”
Why did they choose Mahaneh Yehuda?
“I love Mahaneh Yehuda!” she exclaims. It is a big pill against depression. It has lots of life and good smells. It is a big melting pot of Israel.”
When you approach the restaurant, inside the red painted fence is a small balcony with tables to seat five. Inside are five more round tables seating 10, two glassed-in pastry cases and a small kitchen in the rear. Red checked tablecloths are covered in plastic; there are matching red checked salt and pepper shakers on each table and red checked curtains on the large windows. Shelves are decorated with artificial flowers in vases, and there are some decorative copper items.
Bistro Mimi serves sweet and savory crepes, sandwiches, quiches, salads, soups, coffee and tea, ice cream, pastries and cookies, Parisian macaroons and tarts.
Most popular dish on the menu?
“Crepes with buckwheat flour and French macaroons.”
Favorite item on the menu?
“Savory – Gruyere cheese. Sweet – macaroons and eclairs.”
Biggest accomplishment?
“When I hear people say, ‘We feel at home here.’”
Best part of the job?
“To meet people. I have the feeling that I have gotten inside Israeli society. This is one of the best ways to meet and understand Israelis.”
Who cooks at home?
“My 20-year-old daughter.”
 Bistro Mimi is located at 4 Ha’eshkol Street. Tel: 077-531-1483; reservations and special orders, 052-766-7920. It is kosher lemehadrin.

The restaurant is open Sunday from noon to 7 p.m; Monday and Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m; Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m; Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m; Friday from 8:30 a.m. to one and a half hours before Shabbat.

Every Sunday from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Mimi gives baking lessons in French pastry in Hebrew. If three to six people request it, she will do a class in French or English.