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I moved from dank, dark North Manchester, U.K. to Karmiel, Western Galilee, Israel in March 2010. It is, believe me, one of the sunniest, loveliest towns on earth. With a background in local Jewish journalism I continue to write freelance. I manage several blogs, have  appeared on Technorati and Blogcritics and now contribute to the online magazine, 'Live Encounters'. My main blog is Alwayswriteagain (http://wwwalwayswriteagain.blogspot.com

Friday, 11 February 2011

Nice Restaurant - Shame About The Food!

Kashrut.CertificateLast week I found a dead fly in a bag of loose pecan nuts.

A couple of months ago I threw out a tub of blanched almonds where a family of caterpillar chrysalises had set up home.

Before them came a mysterious colony of  ants in a sealed pack of pearl barley.

I could go on to write of the fresh items which  go rotten after a few days even when kept refrigerated and the transparently-thin white shelled eggs which rarely arrive home  from the supermarket without a crack.

This is Israel – the land where Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) is king. This is Karmiel in the heart of the Galilee where before my arrival in March last year I was convinced that I’d find the land so full and fat that the food would fairly fall off the vine and plop itself juicily in my lap.

Thirty seconds after we landed in Karmiel, I woke up and smelt the coffee – the best and cheapest of which comes from Turkey.  

I keep moaning that Israelis can’t cook and most of which I see, hear and taste bears me out. Everything is produced on a massive scale – with one eye on large Orthodox families  - and the other on their rabbis.

Certainly  no one  argued with me at a recent meeting where we discussed  observance of the Jewish dietary laws  and  I suggested that Israeli supermarkets emphasise rabbinical approval rather than quality and taste.

The same applies to local eateries where we’ve had more fun noshing falafel and pitta  and oversized pizzas at casual bars than eating full dinners with waitress service at ‘proper’ restaurants.

Typical was my birthday treat last month when we visited what is considered one of the best places in town.

I understand that  Michal Lahav, the owner of The Art de Coco Restaurant is a chocolatier by background and first started her restaurant  in Rosh Pina 12 years ago before moving to Karmiel. Her premises are spacious and attractive and the ‘cocoa’ ambience is underscored by a fetching cream and brown decor.  ArtdeCoco.Chocolates

But Lahav needs to concentrate on  what she does best as I found the hot food to be unmemorable, even poor and her young, energetic staff pleasant and helpful but woefully out of their depth.

On the night of our visit there were menus available in Hebrew and English but their contents did not match. The English version had not been updated so bore lower prices for some dishes and a markedly different wine list. We began to feel uncomfortable well before the food was served.

The service was speedy – but one waitress had to show another how to open our bottle of wine.

A  jug of water was provided – with tumblers still warm from the dishwasher.

I ordered zucchini (courgette) quiche. It was unavailable so I   chose the spinach alternative but found it to be barely lukewarm and utterly tasteless. Local spinach is hard, gritty and needs to be treated with generous dollops of salt, black pepper and nutmeg.

My husband’s multi-layer cheese pastries looked pretty but again tasted of very little as did the accompanying salads whose dressings bore no resemblance to what the English menu had promised.

So on to the celebrated chocolate desserts - which looked enchanting and were big enough for two to share. But we were overcharged for the privilege and had the embarrassment of requesting a revised bill.

But the final disaster was the coffee – Rombout coffee filters – which  had been overfilled with water, causing that  famously rich, dark taste to trickle out in ArtdeCoco.Chocolates.02shame - watery, insipid – a waste of their time, our money and a damper on my birthday.

* The Art de Coco Restaurant at Hatzot Karmiel is kosher but does not have a rabbinical supervision certificate.

Tel: (04) 908-2002; www.artdecoco.co.il

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This piece first appeared as “Nice Restaurant - Shame about the Food!” on Blogcritics

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