After a full week in Israel, my parents, sister and brother-in-law boarded planes back to the States, but I stayed an extra three days to have some quality time with one of my oldest and dearest friends. She moved to Israel after graduating college and now lives in Be'er Sheva with her husband and two beautiful children.
The morning we were meeting up I took a train from Tel Aviv to Beit Shemesh. She was there waiting for me (right on the track!) and we hopped in her car to drive to a mystery brunch spot.
I could tell she was super excited to show me the location she had hand picked for our first meal together, but I had no idea where we were going as the car zipped along the road.
We pulled into a parking lot, stepped out and walked down a tree lined path. On the other side of the short trail was this beautiful restaurant. It actually feels more like a tent.
This is Rama's Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant in a town called Nataf, which is about 12 miles west of Jerusalem in the Judean Hills.
The setting is so picturesque and the views are so expansive that it just doesn't seem real.
There is one table that I dubbed "the honeymoon table." It's set just about 10 feet away from the rest of the dining area with its own private platform and umbrella. I can't think of anywhere more romantic to share a meal with someone you love. Israelis, take note!
As I mentioned, Rama's Kitchen is a farm-to-table establishment and no matter which table you are seated at, you'll have a view of the rows and rows of herbs growing right there on the property. They literally pluck the fresh herbs and put them right onto your plate.
We arrived for brunch and were handed a few menus. First, the traditional menu, which is divided into sections by pictures - a chicken over the poultry dishes, fresh vegetables over the side dishes, etc.
The second was the prix fixe tasting menu. Do you notice how many courses it is?
Please also notice the menu is wearing jewelry.
The third and final menu board was a list of cocktails. Many of them featured fresh fruit like the peach julep and the watermelon margarita.
We went back and forth on whether or not we should go for broke and indulge in the tasting menu, or if we should just order a few dishes from the regular menu. In the end, we decided being together in Israel was a special occasion and we should go for the gluttony!
The first step in enjoying our tasting menu was to pick two drinks each. I don't know if you've noticed this in my other Israel posts, but they are very into drinks in this country. They like to have multiple beverage options with every meal. We both decided on ice coffee and lemonade.
The ice coffee in Israel is on another level. It tastes like dessert. At Rama's Kitchen they add some flair to the presentation by sprinkling coffee beans over the top.
The first plate to arrive was a cutting board featuring a loaf of taboon bread (a popular Middle Eastern style of bread), olives, chickpeas and a trio of spreads.
The bread was fresh out of the oven and warm to the touch. Beneath the loaf were meticulously placed seeds and spices.
I used the taboon bread to scoop up our second item, the roasted eggplant dip.
The dip had such a smooth texture and a really nice garlic flavor to it. It was perfect combined with the sesame coated taboon bread.
Another dip made its way to the table, the beet root hummus. It's well documented here on Pop.Bop.Shop. that I don't like beets. However, I will say, this dish had the brightest color. I did taste it (out of curiosity), but the earthy flavor was just too much for me.
After making the dips disappear, we moved onto the gibna cheese flatbread with roasted tomato, garlic and pesto. For those who aren't familiar, gibna is a white, salty cheese, most commonly associated with Egyptian food.
The flatbread had a seriously delicious crust and was the perfect size for sharing.
Next, something a little lighter, the sprouts salad with radishes, kohlrabi, roasted red peppers and fried capers. Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've tasted a fried caper.
Of all the dishes, the sprout salad was my least favorite. Capers aside, I wasn't a fan of any of the ingredients.
Post-salad, we were each delivered what Rama's Kitchen calls "the perfect egg." The expertly cooked egg is delicately placed on top of spoonful of sage-smoked goat cheese and a portobello mushroom.
The yolk looks like it would run across the plate when you cut into it, but it doesn't. It's surprisingly firm. This "perfect egg" is exactly four bites. When it's gone, you'll want forty more.
The next course on the tasting menu was supposed to be crispy liver pate, but we asked if they might be able to do a vegetarian substitution. In place of the pate we received a shushka pepper stuffed with cream cheese.
Compared to the amazing dishes like the eggplant dip, the flatbread and the egg, this was lackluster.
Our final course was a goat cheese platter. We were so stuffed at that point we didn't even touch it. We asked our waitress if we could gift it to another table. After all, great goat cheese should never go to waste.
With the last few plates cleared, the check arrived in this very cute wooden box.
While we were waiting to pay, I snapped a picture of Rama's cooling system. The entire ceiling is covered with misters and fans. When your restaurant is high on a hill in the blistering heat, that's a pretty genius move.
Before leaving, we made a quick stop at the bathroom and even that was gorgeous!
The sinks are ceramic and flanked by purple, flowering, potted plants.
Everything about Rama's Kitchen feels special, unique and intentional. The setting is magical, the 360 degree views are breathtaking and the food is fresh in the truest sense of the word.
While Rama's Kitchen is not in the heart of any of the major cities, you can get there quite easily from Jerusalem and it's definitely worth the trip.
If you decide to sample the tasting menu, it's 98 shekels per person, which is $24.50 dollars. Can you believe that?
I know it's not nice to play favorites, but Rama's Kitchen was the undisputed best meal of the trip.