A taste of northern India in Haifa

Enjoy Jyoti’s home cooking

Jyoti’s Indian Kitchen (photo credit: PR)
Jyoti’s Indian Kitchen
(photo credit: PR)
With the huge range of ethnic restaurants that flourish in Israel, it has always been a mystery to me that there are so few Indian eateries. Indian food is a favorite in the UK and the US, and with so many ex-Brits and other immigrants from English-speaking countries, it is surprising that Indian cuisine is mostly represented by expensive upmarket restaurants in the heart of the country.
Therefore, the opening of an Indian restaurant in Haifa that is kosher and vegetarian is a welcome change from the standard coffee shops and meat restaurants in the city.
Jyoti Hod, a native of northern India, chose her location wisely when she brought the cuisine that she learned from her mother to Jyoti’s Indian Kitchen, which she opened in downtown Haifa with her Israeli-born husband, Nir, eight months ago.
The attractive eatery is cool and intimate, and at the late lunchtime hour on a very hot July day, the tables were full. Local workers from this business part of town near the law courts and government offices were served quickly and efficiently, while others came in to pick up the takeaway they had ordered.
In an attempt to gentrify what was a very rundown part of downtown, the municipality has cleaned up and pedestrianized Jaffa Street and the junction with Ha’atzmaut, where the restaurant occupies one corner, and a funky secondhand (mostly Hebrewlanguage) bookshop is on the other.
Hod, who has been in Israel for 20 years, originally worked in healing therapies, while Nir had a career in education. Hod learned to cook from her mother and wants to present the culture of northern India with tasty and nutritious dishes at reasonable prices. At present, the menu is simple, but Hod says that these first months have been so successful that they are planning to extend the choice of dishes.
The first courses are reasonable at NIS 25, with a choice of alo tiki – small rissoles made of potatoes, peas, yogurt and tahini or hummus; samosas – pastry pockets filled with vegetables; and pakora – fried vegetables in a wrapping of hummus flour. They are all accompanied by little dishes of spicy or more mild sauces according to taste.
For the main course, my companion chose the dumplings, which looked and tasted very meaty, although the ingredients were sweet potato, squash and coconut milk (NIS 49).
My choice was the tali – a selection of beans, lentil dahl, spicy carrots and mixed vegetables surrounded by little pots of yogurt, mint sauce and other spices (NIS 30).
All the main courses were served with rice and japatis. The japatis, a very thin Indian bread cooked on a griddle, were a welcome change, as most Indian restaurants today only serve nan, a much thicker pita-like bread and often too stodgy when served with rice and other potato dishes.
With the main courses costing between NIS 30 and NIS 49, one can have a satisfying and nourishing meal without a first course or dessert.
The desserts on offer (NIS 25 each) were chocolate fudge – suitable for vegans – made with coconut milk; banofffee – layers of biscuit, banana, coconut and dulce de leche; and galab gaman, a spongy pastry ball made with apples with a sauce of rosewater.
Jyoti’s Indian Kitchen provides a welcome break at any time of the day with its clean, cool interior and welcoming and efficient service.
Jyoti’s Indian Kitchen (Kosher, vegetarian) 72 Derech Ha’atzmaut St., Haifa. Tel: 054-208-8077. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Monday and Friday, noon to 5 p.m..