Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Noa Bistro

Nir Zook is my favourite Israeli chef.

He is innovative but keeps within the bounds of traditions - all traditions actually. He has a sense of humour and can poke fun at himself and he is playful when it comes to his food, while remaining serious about maintaining quality and providing visual and oral excitement.

When Dad was last here we went to a little auberge in the hills just above Rosh Pina. What a disappointment that turned out to be. It's reputation is blown out of all proportion and the chef there succumbed to the overbearing Israeli sweet-tooth with no mediating factors in the dishes to get them out of the appalling rating I would have given. The prices reflect their snobby, elitist attitude, whereas the service is better at the Big M... Although the place itself is lovely, I would recommend it only as a very last resort. added to any of the dishes we had.

This time, I decided on Noa Bistro, confident that chef Zook wouldn't let me down. Having been grabbed this way and that by the a la carte menu, dad & I ended up having their Special Menu, which is for 2 or more people.

The first thing brought to the table was a basket of warm rollls with soft butter and absolutely outstanding s'chug made from vine leaves instead of the hot red peppers or hot green peppers and fresh coriander which are the norm. In keeping with Israeli tradition the starters were put into the middle of the table. This was actually a bit of a problem because we were seated at a table for 4 and were presented with 4 full sized dinner plates each holding a different appetizer, which then left barely enough room for our plates, let alon the drinks.

Chigga is a form of vegetarian kubbeh made with fresh tomatoes and tomato paste mixed with bulgur and formed into not so little torpedos. It was served on a chopped tomato salad with shredded fresh basil.

This one serving would have made a nice lunch
Israel is trying to compete with the USA when it comes to serving sizes.

There was a perfectly good caesar salad topped with local parmesan that, once again, would have made a nice lunch for one along with the rolls. The sea bream carpaccio was diving, doused with super premium extra virgin olive oil (I think pressed from Syrian olives, which are a type of small bitter olives with oodles of flavour that originated in Syria and now grow here so they don't have to be smuggled in). This was sprinkled with chopped chives and freshly ground black pepper. Thank goodness there were still rolls left to smear up every last drop of fish flavoured oil.

The last appetizer was smoked shrimps in a coriander cream sauce with sauteed lettuce. Having been lightly smoked, the shrimps only needed warming in the sauce and were juicy and bursting with flavour. Oh what I wouldn't do to have my own smoker... Once again we were glad that the rolls hadn't all been devoured, as not a drop of sauce got left on the plate.

For our main courses I had a lamb sinya, which was a very, very generous piece of lamb topped with green tehina and baked in its own little gratin dish until it was meltingly tender. Dad had the gnocchi in a shrimp cream sauce. We tucked in immediately and I only remembered to take a picture halfway through - so below is my sinya with 2 of dads shrimps on top.

Desserts were a very rich berry fool with meringues and an espresso pannacotta with a caramel sauce

The only disappointing moment of the evening came when dad felt his bottle of beer and decided it wasn't cold enough. But the wait staff cheerfully replaced it with one that had obviously been in the back of the fridge and was icy cold. That put the smile back on dad's face.

And the smile stayed there all the way through dinner.

8 comments:

burekaboy said...

aja,

that food looks incredible. especially that last pannacotta. it must have been so good!! ;p

question for u: do u know what the origin of the chigga is — palestinian, syrian, lebanese? i know there is a syrian version that uses tomato paste. wonder if it's the same. they look great however as a vegetarian appetizer.

this chef looks like he is quite the character from the photo u posted!! very original as i am sure is all his food. i was surprised to read about the s'hug being made from the grapevine leaves. very different.

u know u can "smoke" things at home like those shrimp or chicken breast in chunks skewered with a cast iron pan? email me and i can send u details, if u want to read more or try it. i have never done it myself though.

looking forward to more great posts!

regards, /bb

aja said...

Hey BB,
I class chigga in the "Middle Eastern" category. The closest I have had is the raw lamb version at my friend Spagetti Vampire's place in Nazareth (which I prefer because it had the added mouthfeel of their homepressed olive oil and the love that goes into a wedding feast made by family hands.

The s'hug was a revelation. Really, and I mean REALLY yummy.

As to smoking - I know I could home smoke if I wanted to, but - and this is a fairly objective but - I live in a teeny tiny 1 bedroom apartment with unidirectional ventilation (windows only on one side) and no stove hood with a fan and vent system. I prefer my walls white... One day I will upgrade, and then I will smoke to my hearts content. 8^).

Cheers!

burekaboy said...

hey, i just realized .... look who i am trying to give cooking information to (the smoking bit) ---> the trained chef! ha! what was i thinking? ;p

in any case, i think i'd avoid doing it in my kitchen whatever the ventilation. the smell of smoke is one of the hardest things to get rid of and it permeates everything. leave it to the restaurants to do.

thanks for the chigga info. & "spaghetti vampire" great moniker.

aja said...

actually, you ARE one to comment, what with your exhalted background!

Yeah, the smoke is a big consideration - I remember once some fool of a commis chef decided he wanted to see what would happen if he put cayenne powder onto a burner... ;^{

burekaboy said...

blush blush. exhalted?! surely, u jest. :P

as for the commis chef ... why not go for pepper spray directly to the face? i can only imagine the fumes and black smoke. musta been quite the sight and smell.

aja said...

Yeah, exhalted is how I see it, no jesting.

Actually, we couldn't see a thing - I think teargas works on the same principle... as Lucy used to say "waaaahhhhh!"
8^)

paz said...

Glad you had a good dinner (and cold beer!) together.

Paz

aja said...

Hey Paz,
Amen to that and thank you.

Glad to see you have survived your intensely, insanely busy period and are back - not only giving us beautiful pics but cooking up some great looking food too 8^}