We thought we were headed to the quaint hill-top artists’ village of Ein Hod for a cultural stroll and café bite to eat. But as we got closer we were first confused and then intrigued by signs for another Ein Hod.
We decided to make an adventure of it and continued down a winding gravel road through thick pines until we landed in a small Arab village with a mountain framed sea view. We were greeted by a large sign for Habayit Be Ein Hod—a two-story family restaurant brimming with loud laughter-filled chatter and a line out the door.
We waited in a cozy living room reading a scrapbook of reviews raving with praise and signatures from around the globe, until owner Mubarak, the patriarch of the Abu Alhaija family, led us to a shaded picnic bench in the patio herb garden. Then the waves of food started (no menu), with endless servings of traditional Arab dishes home-cooked by Mubarak’s wife and daughters.
We started with a generous spread of salads that were so fresh we could smell the mint leaves and squeezed lemon in the tabouleh. The matbucha had a nice spicy bite and an unexpected sweetness, and same with the potato salad, which was stained pinkish from sweet red peppers. My favorites were the cigarette sized dolmas and cabbage rolls, which offered a welcomed clean sour edge.
The hummus topped my favorite spots in Jaffa and came with a bonus scoop of minced lamb. The babaganoush was also super creamy and tasty, and then there were the two unexpected purées— an almost “meaty” walnut pâté and a rich ful-bean dip. Not sure what magic spices they contained, but it was definitely a whole new dimension of mashed food innovation. Both should be added as standards alongside the ubiquitous hummus.
Chicken liver was the first hot dish and had a perfect non-grainy consistency and a mildly spiced sauce. And the stuffed red pepper served next complimented it with a sweet gently roasted shell and subtle spices in the rice, which was impressively not overcooked.
Then they introduced their “number one” dish— sinia kefta—a scrumptious beef kebab, served in a pool of spiced tahini. The meat put England’s corned beef to shame and we inhaled the entire plate, including the sauce.
Next Mubarak himself delivered the ‘real majadara”-- a blend of lentils and bulgur wheat toasted golden brown and somehow deliciously chewy, crunchy and moist all at once-- served with a dip of tahini soaked eggplant (another brilliant mashed food).
Just when we thought we were done, we welcomed a plate of slow roasted chicken just falling off the bone, alongside mansaf, stewed beef and lamb, that I guessed was cooked over 5 hours (Mubarak confirmed 4+). All was served with a bright turmeric yellow rice spiced with cardamom (destined to go with lamb), a side of roasted peppers and a dip of crushed grape leaves and herbs that smelled like my favorite tea.
After our meal, we happily moved to a more horizontal position in the downstairs den of pillows and sip on deliciously strong Arabic coffee, while indulging in some sticky sweet homemade baklavah. Mubarak’s son Amar came by and proudly shared their impressive story— that the Abu Alhaija family were the first residents in the “original” Ein Hod down the road before 1948. Since being relocated to this new village the family has grown to 250 people, many of them dedicated to HaBayit Be Ein Hod’s operations on this secluded mountain-side, which is definitely worth the drive for an afternoon eating extravaganza.
Habayit Be Ein Hod