Food: A Place to Savor

Makom Balev continues to delight in a pleasant rustic corner of Raanana

Makom Balev restaurant in Raanana (photo credit: PR)
Makom Balev restaurant in Raanana
(photo credit: PR)
Sitting at a secluded table surrounded by trees, flowers and shrubs, it is hard to believe that you’re in walking distance from downtown Raanana; but the peaceful green outdoor setting, atmospheric indoors (with fireplace), romantic nooks -- and, of course, the good food -- has kept Makom Balev (meaning, a place in the heart) a local favorite for years.
The restaurant offers some intriguing cocktails. Since I am a fan of the unique whisky liqueur, I chose the Drambuie Fresh, while my companion opted for the Bombay Apple (both NIS 48). The former was a Drambuie sour, topped off in a highball glass with soda; the latter a mix of Bombay Sapphire gin, apple schnapps, melon liqueur and white Lambrusco. Both pack a punch, yet were quite refreshing on a warm summer’s eve. As we awaited the appetizers, a generously sized focaccia was served, warm from the oven (NIS 18). It looked as good as it tasted: touches of gold signifying a light crust, punctuated with a sprinkling of herbs. It came not only with the usual olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, but also a green tapenade for spreading -- the best tapenade I have had in a restaurant in years.
Two warm appetizers appeared: eggplant (NIS 38) and cauliflower florets (NIS 27). The eggplant, which had been baked in a wood-burning oven, was loaded -- covered in tehina, olive oil, and pine nuts, with a few thin slices of green chili pepper for a slight extra kick. There was also a side serving of a mild tomato salsa; the eggplant was very good with and without it. The large cauliflower florets were breaded and deep fried to a gorgeous shade of golden brown. Served with a creamy aioli for dipping, this dish would delight any fan of the white cruciferous vegetable. For main courses, we were offered one each of Makom Balev’s star meat and chicken dishes: the osso buco (NIS 98), and pullet in a chili marsala sauce (NIS 64).
The lamb osso buco was prepared classically: the entire shank cooked slowly for hours in a rich red wine sauce chock full of vegetables. The tender meat came off the bone at the slightest touch and was mouthwateringly delicious. After a recent menu change, the osso buco is now served with mashed potatoes -- just right for soaking up the excellent sauce. The boneless chicken, stuffed opulently with entrecote, was sliced and served over a bed of finely cut roasted potatoes garnished with rosemary. The sweet and piquant sauce was ladled over the entire dish; fortunately, it enhanced rather than smothered the exquisitely balanced flavors. (Note: This special was a variation of the version appearing on the restaurant’s printed menu. In addition, it should be noted that the English menu mistranslates pargit as thigh, rather than the correct pullet.) The wine list offers a reasonable selection of exclusively Israeli wines, by the bottle and glass. The waiter recommended a winery I was not familiar with -- Dada, from the Carmel region of the Galilee; I sampled a glass of its Merlot-Shiraz blend (NIS 43) and found it went equally well with the meat and poultry dishes.
The dessert menu includes many familiar favorites, plus daily specials, all made in-house by a dedicated pastry chef. While we were tempted by the gluten-free chocolate souffle, we eventually chose to the apple pie and the seasonal fruit tart (both NIS 38). Both were pleasantly different from the usual. In the first instance, sandwiched between a crust made with almond flour and a crumble topping dusted with powdered sugar was a caramelized apple filling, studded with walnut and raisins, with hints of orange liqueur. The apple pie comes with the traditional scoop of vanilla ice cream. Meanwhile, the fruit tart was a tantalizing melange of flavors: a succulent blend of white chocolate mousse and creme patissier lay beckoning underneath a layer of strawberries (the fresh fruit that varies with the season), all atop a buttery almond crust. It was served with artistic flair amid thickly drizzled dark chocolate sauce, excellent for dredging. The coffee is brewed here from beans roasted and ground on the premises, in an antique roaster in garden. My small cappuccino (NIS 13) certainly tasted fresh, a perfect accompaniment to dessert. Makom Balev serves three meals a day, starting with a buffet breakfast, seven days a week, with brunch on weekends and business lunches served until 17.30. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Makom Balev
Not kosher. Partial English menus available.
Pardes Meshutaf 5, Raanana.
Tel. 09-774-1575 (ext. 2)