“Shirain is a dairy café, so I, a complete and utter carnivore, immediately ordered the only thing on the menu that had once been alive – the salmon skewer, crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside…” Shir Kidan goes beyond the city limits for a visit to Shirain in Mazkeret Batia.
The week before Israel’s Big Brother television show was set to go on air I took a friend out for a nice dinner at Shirain, knowing that it would be the last time I’d see her for the next 3 months of broadcasts. Shirain is a café-restaurant that my friend loves, and after an entire year of her trying to get me to head south to Mazkeret Batia, I finally had to go see what all the fuss was about.
I left work early and had my urbanite passport stamped on the way out of Tel Aviv. I skipped the duty free and headed straight down south to Mazkeret Batia. The night was rather chilly so we chose to give up on the large garden and focus instead on the warm and inviting atmosphere in Shirain’s salon. Shirain is a dairy café, so I, a complete and utter carnivore, immediately ordered the only thing on the menu that had once been alive – the salmon skewer, crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside, accompanied by a crisp battered onion, whose oniony flavour went well with its sweet breading. My friend, on a permanent diet, ordered the cheese tower in honey butter. I tried to remind her that Roquefort, halumi and kashkaval are not exactly low fat cheeses, but she was already drunk on the honey butter, so I decided to just let her enjoy and have her figure it out on the scale later in the privacy of her own home.
It wasn’t easy to select a main dish at Shirain. Amongst the range of pasta and special dishes like the moussaka (one of Shirain’s specialties) there were more than a few interesting choices I’d have liked to taste. I ordered the three-cheese pasta: papardelle pasta sautéed in three types of cheese with button mushrooms and onions. The cheeses enveloped the soft pasta and stretched from one papardelle to the next. The special sauce that resulted from combining the cheeses, mushrooms and onions caught my friend’s eye and drew her fork to my plate. She learned too late that everything has its price. Her large portion of pasta, in cream sauce with pieces of salmon, was polished off before she’d even tasted a single bite of my pasta. The fettuccine swam in a mildly salty cream sauce between islands of meaty salmon. The bit of pesto lent the dish something special. For dessert I removed every last bit of cream from her plate. To the amazement of my friend, her luck turned right around and she was happy to be left with my three-cheese pasta, or at least what was left of it.
Full to the brim we leaned back on our chairs for some tea and a few more strands of conversation. A dish of phyllo pastry in a pool of apples cooked in silan was placed on our table. The phyllo pastry enhanced the taste of the cooked apples imparting the dish with the taste and aroma of cider that suited the rainy night outside. The dish came accompanied by vanilla ice cream that slightly cooled the hot dish and gave it a rather adventurous flavour.
With so much good food we were nearly unable to move. The conversation flowed slowly and we continued sitting to enjoy a bit of the atmosphere at Shirain and gather the strength that will help us to finally get up and go. We would have stayed for another coffee if only I didn’t have to catch the last flight back to the country of Tel Aviv.
Shirain4 Dov Shmir, Mizkeret Batia Museum Complex, Mizkeret BatiaTel: 08-9348302http://www.restaurants-in-israel.co.il/restaurant.aspx?id=15412