Dining: Kepasa, Spanish Mediterranean in the desert

Kepasa is a happening place in Beersheba.

Kepasa restaurant (photo credit: PR)
Kepasa restaurant
(photo credit: PR)
‘Que pasa?” is a common expression in Spanish, meaning “What’s happening?” In Beersheba, the question is also an answer: Kepasa? – one the city’s most popular restaurants – is the place to go when one feels like eating good food in a pleasant atmosphere.
The cool interior of Kepasa is indeed an inviting place when entering on a hot summer afternoon in the capital of the Negev. Attractively designed with a square central bar, the restaurant is decorated with splashes of color and welcomes diners with lively salsa music and comfortable booth seating.
There are detailed English menus – printed in the form of a booklet that opens in the direction of a Hebrew book – and at least some of the staff speak very good English. The menu also reveals one explanation for the restaurant’s popularity: Every weekday, all day long, purchase one entrée and get the second one free. For solo diners, an appetizer is free with the order of a main course during business lunch hours.
There is a long list of specialty cocktails, from which I chose the Amore Mio (NIS 42): Absolut mandarin, mint syrup, blood orange liqueur and lime juice, garnished with orange peel.
Served in a martini glass with no ice, it was still refreshingly cold and bracing.
Kepasa also offers non-alcoholic options, in the form of shakes and smoothies. The Rhodes (NIS 28) – a tropical blend of pineapple, apple, melon coconut cream and peach – was thick and satisfying.
In spite of the name and the music, the food at Kepasa is not predominantly Spanish but rather “nouveau Mediterranean,” encompassing the entire basin, from Spain to Turkey. There is also a nod to Argentina, and a hamburger menu that reflects a number of international cuisines.
With so many tempting choices, I let the chef choose for me.
The house focaccia (NIS 18) came with three dips: a pesto with almonds and Parmesan; eggplant with Bulgarian cheese; and mild tomato salsa with drop of schoug.
All were fine, but the eggplant spread was good enough to be eaten straight.
The first appetizer was beet carpaccio (NIS 28): what must have been a huge beet, baked in the taboon, sliced razor-thin, surrounded by dollops of a creamy goat cheese and topped with greens, red onion and chopped nuts. Although the English menu says it is "under a satay sauce,” the dish was dressed in a toasted hazelnut vinaigrette that was good enough to merit being mopped up with the focaccia. On the whole, an excellent dish.
Next was sea bass carpaccio (NIS 47) with avocado, radish, tomato, red onion and coriander, garnished with red chili pepper.
The morsels of extremely fresh fish were served on crispy pita chips that added some nice crunch, while – in addition to the marinade that flavored the fish – the ceviche was atop a thin paste of chili and lime, resulting in a great interplay of flavors.
The main course was Atlantic salmon fillet (NIS 97). According to the menu, it is grilled before being served in a frying pan, together with pasta shells in a lemon and cream sauce, with spinach and cubes of fried pumpkin. The fish, topped generously with slivered almonds, was cooked perfectly: flaky and moist under an appetizing crust.
For a beverage, I had the house sangria (NIS 26): white wine with apple cider, lychee liqueur and chunks of fresh fruit. It was pleasant enough, although a bit on the sweet side.
All the dishes – appetizers and entrées – were large enough to share. In addition, there is a children's menu.
The dessert menu, which is also bilingual, turned out to be superfluous. The waitress recommended the signature dessert, which is listed by Mako as one of the 50 best desserts in the country. With a billing like that, ordering the White Lotus (NIS 39) was a no-brainer.
The acclaimed dessert consisted of coconut parfait and a layer of white chocolate and passion fruit ganache atop a small stack of lotus cookies, with mango sauce, raspberry coulis and kisses of coconut meringue. Accented with toasted coconut chips, this inspired creation deserved its accolades. The White Lotus went very well with a large mug of freshly brewed cappuccino (NIS 15).
Kepasa is one of a family of restaurants that seems to have its finger on the city’s pulse. It’s good to know there are some worthy places at which to dine out when traveling south.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher
6 Heyl Hahandasa #B7, Beersheba
Tel: (08) 665-5122