Return to gourmet heaven

With a new menu, Nina Bianca still serves outstanding meals

Nina Bianca (photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Nina Bianca
(photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Would you drive for an hour for a really good meal? That was the question preoccupying me as we passed vineyards and fields of corn as we headed to Kiryat Ekron, just south of Rehovot, for our second visit to Nina Bianca.
The answer should be a resounding “Yes” when the food is this good, the service is fast and efficient, the ambience is quirky and the welcome is not just warm but almost familial.
Dor is young, charming, good-looking and very knowledgeable about food and wine. He brought several red wines to taste, insisting that a blend was acceptable to drink with fish and that the accompanying wine does not necessarily have to be white.
However, as I really do love a good Chardonnay, I settled for that and we enjoyed a generous glass each (NIS 38).
For starters, I chose asparagus with mushrooms (NIS 47) while my companion picked the fresh tuna salad (NIS 62). The fresh asparagus had been grilled to al dente and was topped with the chopped roasted mushrooms and accompanied with creamy polenta and another cream which turned out to be made from popcorn. I don’t ever remember using the term “sublime” before, but it was!
Meanwhile, my companion tucked into his tuna sashimi and appeared to relish it. Apart from chunks of raw red tuna, it contained herb aioli, burnt potato with black olives, a coddled egg, tomatoes, capers, and was garnished with basil cream.
Although the menu abounds with pizza and other doughy offerings, we each chose a fish dish, which Dor recommended.
My choice was sea bass (levrek), two generous fillets, cooked in the tabun (clay oven), and topped with hazelnuts, with a side dish of mashed potatoes mixed with truffle extract. It was totally delicious. Coincidentally, we had returned a few days earlier from a gourmet trip to Italy, where we visited a hazelnut orchard and followed a truffle hunt. I felt as though I’d never left the Italian Piedmont.
My partner’s dish of locus, or grouper (NIS 98) was also very reminiscent of our recent holiday, being served with tagliatelle in a tomato, zucchini and eggplant sauce. We had even visited a pasta factory and seen how tagliatelle pasta is made. Another coincidence: of all the pasta shapes in the world – this was the one that came up twice in our lives in less than a week.
For dessert, there are many tempting choices, but we decided to share a crème brûlée (NIS 45). This one had the advantage of having a very thin, burnt-sugar topping, the cream was not over-sweet and the caramelized popcorn garnish was interesting.
Two marvelous cappuccinos brought this outstanding meal to a happy close and we were back home in time to watch the last great episode of Missing File.
Nina Bianca
Bussy Saint Georges St. 9, Kiryat Ekron
Phone: 08-948-0080
Sun-Thurs: 12 noon-midnight
Friday: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 p.m.-midnight
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.