Dining: Delicious Charm

Named for the moshav in which it is located, Hendal’e draws full houses from miles around

Hendal’e restaurant (photo credit: PR)
Hendal’e restaurant
(photo credit: PR)
There are quite a few moshavim in the center of the country that have become by and large bedroom communities, where the role of the family farm has been much diminished. As part of this trend, when moshavnik Nir Markov of Givat Chen – today practically a neighborhood of Ra’anana – scaled back his egg production business, he got unusually creative with one of his empty chicken coops: He turned it into a restaurant. Thirteen years later, the popular Hendal’e is certainly the coop that laid the golden egg.
Whether relaxing on one of the couches in the outdoor lounge area or settling in for a meal at an al fresco table flanking the entrance or inside the transformed space, the peaceful pastoral ambience is pervasive. This rustic tranquility, along with the restaurant’s reputation for good food, has made for a winning combination. The menu is quite extensive, and there are daily specials as well, which the friendly wait staff can explain in both English and Hebrew. The cocktail list is creative as well, and always a good place to start. A specialty is the lychee vanilla martini (NIS 33), a cold, sweet concoction with a really unusual surprise: floating chunks of what I thought might be the flesh of the fruit but are actually pieces of a white chocolate candy bar. A more standard choice is the house version of frozen margarita (NIS 30), but even here there is a twist. Called a sorbetito, it comes in four different flavors. We chose the passion fruit, and it was as refreshing as it sounds.
To start the meal, we had one of the appetizer daily specials: fire-grilled eggplant (NIS 42) swimming in tehina and topped with a fresh chopped tomato salad. The eggplant was meaty and smoky and not at all overwhelmed by the abundance of tehina. It was accompanied by a toasted sesame seed focaccia, served with the traditional olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The extra virgin olive oil is pressed by the owner’s aunt and is for sale on the premises as are a number of other homemade delicacies. As a second appetizer, we had the gnocchi in goat cheese sauce, with cherry tomatoes and pine nuts (NIS 42). The gnocchi were not the usual shape for the potato pasta but rather round balls, which soaked up the rich sauce nicely. Garnished with fresh twigs of thyme, the leftover sauce cried out to be mopped up with whatever remained of the focaccia. For main courses, we chose the beef fillet medallion in Marsala wine sauce (NIS 112) and the lamb chops (NIS 116).
Surprisingly, we were not asked how we wanted the meat cooked, so we decided to hope for the best. Fortunately, the default choice was medium, rendering the steak moist and flavorful, even without the sauce – which, nonetheless, would be a shame to ignore. Reminiscent of a Mexican mole sauce, it was full of intriguing subtleties. The three lamb chops were served at the table in a skillet, together with a grilled onion and tomato. The chops were thicker than what are generally available at an Israeli stekiya – tender and juicy. Main courses come with a choice of one hot side, as well as a green salad. We chose the mashed sweet potatoes, a nice alternative to the standard white potatoes, and an order of vegetables roasted in a liberal slathering of quality olive oil. The salad is less green than as described, since it is two-thirds bamboo shoots and carrot strips. It was nicely dressed with a crisp citrus vinaigrette.
A welcome bonus with meat entrées is an order of Hendale’s pickled vegetables, Asian-style. I found them addictive, polishing off both plates that arrived at the table. Without a meat main course, the pickles can be ordered as a starter for NIS 18.
Meat entrées also deserve a good red wine, such as a glass of the house wine bottled under the Hendale label: Tulip Winery’s 2012 Reserve, a quite good Cabernet-Franc blend (NIS 30). A similar recommended blend is Gush Etzion’s Nahal Hapirim (NIS 33).
Hendal’e also has a particular dessert it calls a customer favorite: a double Belgian waffle meant for two, with more toppings than I’ve ever seen heaped on one plate – ice cream, fruit salad, chocolate and caramel sauces and assorted candies (NIS 55). The creme brulée (NIS 30) is definitely worthy of being called a favorite. It is a creamy delight that is cool throughout, under a sweet, crunchy, caramelized crust. The toppings theme is evident here as well, with frothy whipped cream and delicious berry preserves made in the Hendal’e kitchen. The preserves are for sale by the jar with the other homemade goodies.
Hendal’e has a menu that spans breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. So pull up a chair or grab a seat on a sofa; it would be hard to go wrong here.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant. Hendal’e Not kosher Moshav Givat Chen Tel: (09) 760-3647 Open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.(or last customer)