Dining: Success story

Angelina puts Hod Hasharon on Israel’s culinary map.

Angelina restaurant in Hod Hasharon (photo credit: PR)
Angelina restaurant in Hod Hasharon
(photo credit: PR)
For years, the corner of Habanim and Hageula streets in downtown Hod Hasharon – the rapidly growing Tel Aviv suburb whose population has been multiplying at a rate three times that of the big city – was thought to cast a jinx on restaurant after restaurant that failed at this location. Then, exactly 10 years ago this month, Café Bistro Angelina opened at the dubious intersection and broke the curse by going on to become arguably the city’s best restaurant.
The decor, accented in dark wood, is unmistakably French bistro, as befits a restaurant whose motto is ”As bistro as it gets.” In the same spirit, the cuisine is unabashedly continental, with the appropriate nod to locally sourced fresh ingredients. The menu is adjusted seasonally, shifting in mid-May as Israel’s summer approaches, while keeping the most popular dishes on the menu year round.
Warmer weather cries out for a refreshing cocktail to start with, and Angelina’s list of cocktails delivers, with a choice of red or white sangria, as well as a number of creative twists on familiar classics.
My dining companion, who had never had white sangria, opted for that wine-and-fruit combination: an icy house white chock full of slices of pear, apple and green grapes, sweetened with a dram of lychee syrup and garnished with a whole cinnamon stick (NIS 42). I chose the basil mojito (NIS 42), a rum sour in which leaves of fresh basil replace the usual muddled mint.
As an amuse-bouche, we sampled the crab bisque, lightly seasoned with chili and chives that cut the heaviness of the creamy soup and redolent with small chunks of roasted chestnut that added to the sensuous texture. (NIS 48).
For starters we chose the corvina carpaccio (NIS 52) and, per our knowledgeable waitress’s suggestion, a bowl of gazpacho (NIS 22). The delicious white fish, delicately marinated in lemon juice with touches of coriander, mint and red chili, was shaved to transparent thinness and served with small chunks of fresh citrus fruit. The gazpacho tasted less of tomato and more like a melange of vegetables.
The starters were served with bread and a mild salsa or butter as spreads.
We elected to order two pasta dishes as main courses, with one salad to share. The seafood linguine (NIS 86) was another recommendation of the waitress.
And since I detected a distinct bias on the part of the chef towards gnocchi, I went for the intriguing-sounding purple gnocchi (NIS 72).
The linguine was excellent: cooked al dente, with a generous assortment of seafood, whose combined juices flavored the light sauce to perfection.
The color and creativity in the purple gnocchi were reflected in the complexity of the ingredients: pecans, aged Parmesan and sundried tomatoes in a basil-infused cream sauce tinted with beet juice.
With an extra dash of freshly grated Parmesan, it was certainly tasty enough. But the bottom line is: gnocchi is gnocchi. If you are a fan of Italy’s gift to the world of the miniature potato dumpling then you will find it done right at Angelina. If it was not a favorite to begin with, there are enough other tempting choices on the menu worthy of consideration.
For meat lovers, it might be the hanger steak (NIS 56), which the chef insisted we taste as representative of a beef dish. The butcher’s cut of small slices of meat, cooked medium and drenched in a rich sauce of truffles and chestnuts, was another dish we could happily have continued eating to satiety.
We were both full enough to forgo dessert, but the waitress enticed us with two house favorites: tarte tatin (NIS 48) and crepes Suzette (NIS 42). The former, featuring thick tranches of apple and served with plain vanilla ice cream, resembled more of an American apple pie a la mode than the French version its name implies. The crepes Suzette were not prepared tableside; but the texture of the crepes, swimming in the buttery, syrupy combination of Cointreau and caramel, rendered the dessert ultimately satisfying.
Angelina has a well-curated international wine list, with sufficient variety to order by the glass or carafe, as well as the standard bottle. We relied on the advice of the shift supervisor and thoroughly enjoyed our glass of 2012 Cabernet Shiraz from the Golan Heights Pelter Winery (NIS 45).
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Café Bistro Angelina
Not kosher
14 Habanim St., Hod Hasharon
(09) 744-1444