Weekday brunches

Benedict’s annual global celebration, Betta Savion’s superb innovation

THE ARRAY at Benedict.
Benedict, Israel’s popular 24/7 chain of breakfast restaurants, is currently celebrating its fifth annual “February Around the World,” featuring five special breakfasts that are inspired by ethnic cuisines from four continents.
The five international breakfasts (ranging anywhere from NIS 62-72) – representing China, Italy, Mexico, Colombia and France – will be served through March 3.
As usual, Benedict has invested in printing colorful menus, in both Hebrew and English, highlighting this month’s specials. Each dish comes with a choice of complimentary beverage: fresh-squeezed juice, a hot drink or mimosa.
Four of the five breakfasts include an egg component, although in the case of the Monte Cristo it is in the form of French toast. And while I am sure that the Chinese and Colombian dishes are eaten for breakfast in those countries, to my American-Israeli palate they seemed more appropriate for lunch or dinner.
In order to sample all the limited time only breakfasts, we departed from our usual practice and chose to forgo the starters and desserts; instead, we ordered two main courses. We ended up taking home the leftovers.
We commenced with the one that seemed most similar to a breakfast dish: the Monte Cristo, a French toast sandwich of ham and Brie cheese, topped with bacon. Dusted with powdered sugar, it is an exquisite combination of sweet and savory. And for good measure, a side salad of slightly bitter arugula and slices of juicy persimmon added even more contrasting flavors.
The next dish came from the only country that was represented last year – France – although this time, from a slightly different region: Provence, and not Paris. The main dish is flaky puff pastry that oozes sinfully rich melted Brie, accompanied by a medium-boiled egg, bacon jam, garlic confit and a side salad. The jam reminded us more of caramelized onion, but either way, it was a nice counterpoint to the unadulterated high-fat cheese.
The Colombian breakfast consisted of two toasted arepas – cornmeal pitas – stuffed with a slow-cooked stew of beef and red pepper. The crunchy exterior encased succulent meat, which – together with a truly outstanding side salad of black beans and sour cream, seasoned with corianders and red onion – made for a hearty and satisfying meal.
Finally, we concluded with the Chinese bao – two steamed bun sandwiches of meat in hoisin sauce, served with a soy-marinated boiled egg, Asian cabbage salad and Asian pickles. Like its South American counterpart, it was not necessarily my choice for first thing in the morning; but since we were there in the afternoon, we enjoyed the robust flavors.
Needless to say, we did not have a drop of room left for even the smallest of tempting desserts, but could not leave without a final cup of the restaurant’s excellent fresh-brewed coffee.
The fourth branch of the Betta Cafe chain is located in a semi-bucolic corner of Savyon, at the front of a small suburban shopping center facing a green lawn. It is also the only outlet of the chain that serves brunch on weekdays, Sunday to Thursday, from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
The brunch was just introduced, so although the restaurant’s regular menu is bilingual, the new brunch menu – which we had to request especially – is still only in Hebrew. By and large, however, the staff can explain the dishes in English, as well as how the brunch works: you order a main course, and it comes with an array of starters, two baskets of baked goods, and drinks – all for the price of the main course (NIS 80-110).
In short order, the table is covered with baskets and an elegant three-tiered serving tray loaded with no fewer than 10 mezze – salads and dips. The two baskets contain fresh, whole-grain rolls, and an assortment of sweeter carbs: a small danish, a mini-croissant and a sweet roll.
Notable among the small plates of starters were slices of ripe avocado with sea salt and lemon juice; smoked salmon and two kinds of herring; premium tehina garnished with grated carrot; a salad of micro greens in a tart dressing; and a very interesting salad of quinoa, tomato, feta cheese, almonds and sunflower sprouts.
The main courses comprise seven dishes, all but one served warm. Four of them contain eggs, and two are vegan.
We started with the intriguingly named “hunter-gatherer” shakshuka, a hearty version featuring spinach and stronger native Israeli greens, cubes of potato, and bacon. We appreciated the fact that we were asked how we wanted our eggs: runny, medium or hard.
Next came the hummus with fresh, meaty mushrooms and a dollop of asado beef stew, topped with a sunny-side up egg. We were not warned that the hummus itself is the unusual house version, seasoned with harissa – identical, in fact, to the hummus that came as a starter.
Both main courses were robust, with bold flavors, and very filling – especially after sampling the multitude of mezze, which come with free refills.
The beverages included with the meal are one glass of fresh-squeezed juice and one hot drink, coffee or tea. Or, you may substitute a smoothie for the juice, if you wish to forgo the hot drink (or pay extra for it).
The service throughout was attentive, professional and solicitous (for example, we were asked if we wanted coffee in a cup or glass). Indeed, overall this brunch represents very good value, relative to similarly constructed weekend brunch menus.
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.
Benedict. Not kosher. Etzel 1, Herzliya Pituah. Tel. (03) 686-8657, ext. 3.
Beta Caffe. Not kosher. Hashikma St. 1, Savyon. Tel. 1-700-700-937.