Dining review: Provence in a Galilean bistro

Located in Tarshiha, on the road from Kfar Vradim, Aluma bistro brings big-time cooking to the Galilee. Tarshiha is an Arab village in the western Galilee that shares a municipality with Ma'alot, and is home to Christian and Muslim families. It took guts for chef Tal Ze'evi to decamp from celebrated Tel Aviv restaurants and pitch his tent at Aluma where, together with chef/owner Alfa Peri and chef Wisam Abu Ra'aya from Sakhnin, he weaves seasonal French and traditional Galilean styles into a seamless, richly herbed tapestry. The cozy and elegant dining room is decorated with artifacts from Provence which contribute to the intimate ambience and make the restaurant a perfect setting for a romantic meal. But Aluma's main strength is on the plate. The kitchen delivers a three-star performance, and it's easy to understand why the locals have taken to the place, given the variety and general excellence of its offerings. The well-priced wine list is exceptionally diverse, and includes a by-the-glass selection that would do any bistro proud, while the wait staff is attentive and knowledgeable. We started our meal with a delicate green olive tapenade and sundried tomatoes with feta cheese, served with excellent homemade bread. Next was a special and unique Galilee mezze including small lamb kebabs with 'Friki,' an Arab-based dish of green wheat; eggplant with labane; and cr me pate with roasted peppers kadaif. We also had an unusual dish of thin filo dough with Camembert cheese-topped figs marmalade. For the main course we had a perfect cut of veal filet in red wine sauce spiced with cinnamon, bay leaf and cardamom. It was served with a side dish of risotto in veal stock and porcini mushrooms, and root vegetables. The other main dish was remarkably tasty, including three different parts of veal: sirloin wrapped in filo dough with pistachio and herbs; pomegranates glazed filet; and veal chops with sweet potatoes and green leaves. Chef Alfa Peri is in charge of the inventive desserts, and among her creations are lavender-scented cr me brulee; a variety of sorbets; and ginger cr me with roasted pear kadaif. Aluma Galilean bistro. Kfar Vradim-Tarshiha road. Open Sunday to Thursday from 12:30 p.m to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tel: (04) 957-4477 (not kosher)