Kristine L Ming

Fine dining, outside of Tel Aviv

“People living outside of Tel Aviv deserve good food,” Chef Meir Alaluf told me when I visited his Ceasarea restaurant, Mariposa. Though he lives in Holon, in the center of Israel, he expressed his passion for bringing fine dining to those who live in the northern part of the country. Alaluf, an experienced culinary professional, started Mariposa with two other chefs, Yomi Levi and Haviv Moshe, with the vision of a simple, yet elegant restaurant serving excellent quality food, just as good as anything you’d find in Tel Aviv.

The menu is Asian-influenced, featuring a number of dishes bathed in Thai-style coconut milk and dressed with peanuts and ginger. There is also plentiful sea fare, like caramelized sea bass and sashimi, as the restaurant’s Caesarea location makes it ideal for fresh fish dishes. We began the meal with two starters: sirloin tataki in lemon grass sauce, and cubed tuna in a chili peanut sauce with eggplant cream and crispy rice. The quality of the sirloin was excellent; unfortunately, the flavor of the meat was muted due to the sauce. The cubed tuna was delicious – the fish was clearly freshly caught and the eggplant cream was perfectly attuned to the salty and subtle taste of the tuna.

The two cocktails we tried – the Green Valley and the Picha Margarita – were outstanding. The Margarita was not overly sweet, despite having peach, nectarine syrup, and being served in a glass with generous amounts of powdered sugar on the rim. The Green Valley, with sliced cucumber in the glass, was tart and refreshing.

Then came the main courses: first, marinated salmon served with creamy mashed potatoes and an Asian-style cucumber and peanut salad. The salmon was tender and perfectly cooked, each bite a flavorful journey from the soft, pink center to the pleasantly crusted exterior. Next was the pinnacle of the evening: the Togarashi drum fish. Served with grilled lettuce and sticky rice, the drum fish’s mild flesh served as the perfect host for the contrasting flavors of coconut milk and tangy lemon. Simple white sticky rice helped balance the dish, and the grilled lettuce was a brilliant addition to the plate. The lettuce’s smoky flavor was an extraordinary palate cleanser after the drum fish, which boasted an explosion of flavors.

Finally, although we were stuffed, we ended the meal with an indulgent desert – a roasted banana with caramel and coffee mousse, and creamy sabayon. The delicious sweet treat was as good as it sounds, and one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.

Mariposa proves that those living outside the center don’t need to make the journey to Tel Aviv to enjoy a world-class meal.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Not kosher
Golf Club, Caesarea
Tel: (04) 626-5000

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