A feast for kosher carnivores

Pitmaster serves grilled and smoked meats until you cry uncle.

A feast for kosher carnivores (photo credit: AFIK GABBAY)
A feast for kosher carnivores
(photo credit: AFIK GABBAY)
It did not take long -- the place has been open for only five months -- for “Pitmaster: The Meat Show” to play to packed houses.
It certainly has found the secret to attracting crowds of Israeli diners: serve them as much quality beef as they can possibly put away in a 90-minute seating -- plus as much wine and beer as they can drink -- for one fixed price (NIS 200). And for good measure, make sure the meat is kosher, without stinting on quality.
What remains to be seen, of course, is how long in the current “corona climate” it can continue to get people to come to a restaurant where total strangers sit close together at long, common tables. Ordinarily, it is part of the fun to make new acquaintances -- and we enjoyed amiable conversation with our proximate neighbors -- but these are hardly normal times.
Meanwhile, if you do not want to be squeezed between strangers, you can request to be seated at the end of the table, when you make your reservations -- which are de rigueur. (Well, they do dispense hand sanitizer as you file in.)
Another caveat is that apart from the name appearing everywhere only in English -- along with the restaurant’s slogan “Time to Meat” -- everything is conducted exclusively in Hebrew, from the video introduction to the proceedings, to the explanations and presentations throughout the evening by the MC (the Pitmaster).
There is no menu, in any language; instead, we are informed that “the Pitmaster will decide what you eat, and when you eat it.” Every time the bell rings, a new course is announced, displayed and served.
Funnily enough, it takes a while for the meat to be served. For one thing, nothing starts until 30 minutes after seating time, and all who are expected are seated. A lot of this delay is because of how hard it is to find parking -- so come early -- and this is clearly the fault of Pitmaster. There are two parking lots adjacent to the restaurant that were completely empty, because they are closed in the evenings. It behooves a successful enterprise to come to an arrangement with the proprietors to accommodate their customers.
The tables are preset with salad and tabouleh, as well as carafes of wine and pitchers of beer and soda water. Then the first course arrives -- and it is not meat. It is rice. It is not bad at all; but since we are promised 1 to 1.5 kilos of meat per person, it is hardly worth filling up on carbs.

The first meat course is prepared as we watch: asado (short ribs) is chopped up, mixed with tomato and parsley, and this mixture is then served with hummus massabha and smoked hard-boiled egg, along with mini-loaves of fresh, warm, crusty bread. Each portion is meant to be shared by four people.
The massabha is fine, but the first course that is 100% meat is quick to follow: picanha, or rump steak. Prior to it being sliced and served, the layer of fat that covers the beef is melted with a blowtorch.
If the meat in the first course was overshadowed by the hummus, the picanha is pure beef heaven. No condiments are served -- or needed. This is also our first test of pacing ourselves for the courses to follow.
Next comes a reprise of the asado, which had spent the previous 10 hours in the Pitmaster’s smoker. For short ribs, which I usually avoid since they are generally fatty, this version is unusually good.
The fourth meat course is sirloin, grilled medium-rare. It is served on drizzles of sweet potato cream seasoned with Persian lemon and garlic confit, and, rather bizarrely, candied peanuts are sprinkled on top. But the main event is superb: juicy and succulent, with more than enough for each person.
Next comes another welcome cut: filet mignon. This melt-in-the mouth tender steak is as outstanding as its predecessor. It is served with a sweet chutney, which proves to be a superfluous extra.
Around this time, our partners in gluttony are ready to finish their meal, but more meat is yet to come. Meanwhile, “chasers” (shots) of arak are being sold for NIS 10; but with unlimited draft beer and red wine flowing freely, there are not many takers.
The final meat course is ontrib, served shredded, with baked sweet potato and garlic confit. This cut is a neighbor to short ribs, and I find it too similar to the asado. Still, it means I have room for a little dessert, which is a small plate of assorted sweets: rich chocolate babka, macaroons, and chocolate nougat brownies, washed down with hot tea or black coffee.
Some final thoughts: 1. All of the meat was served medium-rare, or at most medium. This is indeed recommended to enjoy the full flavor; but if you are used to ordering your steaks medium-well or well-done, be forewarned. 2. The bathroom is located up a flight of stairs, and thus is not accessible to the physically challenged. 3. The restaurant was full to just about the Health Ministry limit of 100 people (including staff) together in one space. 4. There is one seating most nights of the week, at 8, but two on Thursdays, at 6:30 and 9.
I would have gladly swapped one of the repeated servings of asado/ontrib for one portion of entrecôte, rib steak or prime rib. I think the chances of ending up with the exact same menu twice are low, however, so hopefully, next time.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
4 Bareket Street
Petah Tikvah
Tel: 073-277-7777