Written by on April 10, 2011 in I Eat Haifa, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(No website found at time of publishing) – 38 Ben-Gurion Blvd., Haifa

How I heard of this place: Several years ago, on a visit to Haifa, a group of us from the Seattle area, both volunteers and visitors, decided to meet at Fattoush for dinner. The proximity of the patio seating, the view of the Shrine of the Bab, Terraces and Baha’i Gardens, and the warm weather make it an ideal viewpoint for dining outdoors.

Type of cuisine: Typical Arabic and Middle Eastern fare, Fattoush is one of the favorite dining establishments of the Haifa Arab population. The menu boasts everything from a page of variations on hummus and bread, one with “black beans” (that turned out to be more like pinto beans), in a lemon & garlic infused olive oil, another with garlic and sauteed mushrooms, another with minced lamb, to entree-sized salads, rice and chicken dishes, yogurt, and sweet desserts. Fresh fruit shakes, freshly squeezed juices, iced coffee, limo-nana and other cold beverages as well as hot options are available on the menu for those looking for a lighter snack, a drink on the patio or as an accompaniment to any meal.

Ambiance: Fattoush is most well-known for the ambiance it creates indoors, though nearly every time I dine here, I find that the weather is too good not to enjoy, outside. This visit was no different. Walking down Ben-Gurion, one is inundated with large, fabric patio umbrellas, tables, large and small, and chairs making their way out onto the sidewalk area at each restaurant. In some instances, it is difficult to know where one establishment ends and the next begins. But this is no concern for diners; menu items are often the same, with slight variations or change of name. Rustic, wooden tables, heavy and with depth, surrounded by plastic basket-woven seats, complete with back- and arm-rests, are available for patrons to choose. Select your spot, tell someone where you are seated and service will, relatively shortly, be on its way. Blossoming olive trees grace the space outdoors, and those lucky enough to be seated underneath are often sprinkled with tiny flowers, not to mention cozied by stray cats, awaiting a morsel. Indoors, for those feeling the desire to escape the heat and humidity of summer or the thundering downpour of winter rains, one is welcomed into a dungeonous setting. The ladies room, directly to the left as you enter may confuse you as you are forced to turn right into the mini-hallway that leads you to the cave. Down a few steps, through an arched doorway, one begins to understand what it feels like to dine in an old-time home environment. Cushions and pillows surround three-quarters of the room, on benches that are not more than one foot off of the floor. Striped, losing their lustre and form, these cusions embrace diners against the cavern-like walls; food is served on square coffee tables interspersed strategically around the room. Ornate hanging lights and painted archway designs add to the warm and comfortable feel of this indoor seating area. (Also available, in an adjacent room are tables and chairs, set at normal height, for those wishing to dine indoors without floor seating.) One diners review shares a bit of history: “The round-roofed cellar is a part of the legacy from the German Templars who came to Haifa in 1868. They built their homes along both sides of Ben-Gurion, which then had a different name, a German name. They started vineyards on Mount Carmel, and this was one of their vineyard wine cellars. The Haifa Tourist Board directly across Ben-Gurion Avenue has a similar basement cellar, though smaller, and used for showing tourist films. The whole area is great for a visit. If you go to Haifa, also go to the sweets store, at the corner of Allenby and Hazionut. 23 different kinds of Arabic sweets!

What I ordered: On this visit, I was with two friends who had never been to the Mediterranean, let alone Haifa. I recommended Fattoush more for the ambiance than the food, but knew that they would be experiencing something novel and entertaining, relaxing and tasty enough. We decided to share our dishes, family style, starting with the Halumi Salad (46NIS), baby salad greens with sprouts, cucumber and tomato, sauteed mushrooms and walnuts in a honey-soy dressing, topped with fried halumi cheese (goat’s cheese) and sesame seeds. The salad came with “Giabetta bread” (two, round, wheat dinner rolls topped with oats and flax seeds). We also shared the Egyptian Hummus (28NIS), a house-made hummus topped with “cocked” (I think the menu intended to say, cooked) black beans, garlic-lemon seasoning and olive oil, served with two rounds of pita bread. For the main entree, we shared my sister’s favorite, Fattoushia (44NIS), white, Basmati rice, served hot, tossed with mint, green onion, mushrooms and cubes of chicken breast, and served with a small bowl of plain yogurt. To drink, I always enjoy a fresh fruit shake in Haifa restaurants, and went with a mango-peach (18NIS) combination, thinned with water (rather than milk). One of my dining companions also found this refreshing and ordered a strawberry-pineapple (18NIS) combination, with water. The third in our group wanted to try something new, which we were all pleased with, and ordered the Spiced Milk (14NIS), steamed milk with a generous helping of honey, and dusted with freshly grated cinnamon.

What I loved: My favorite is always the fresh fruit, whether in juice or smoothie form. Refreshing, cooling and sweet, plentiful – a carafe accompanies each straw-induced glass – and delicious! I am often surprised by how good dates (with banana) are in these fresh fruit shakes, but decided against it on this visit. We were all happily surprised by the Spiced Milk and made a mental note to try it at home. Of the foods, the halumi salad was quite nice, and the cheese tasted of sweet maple syrup! My three-year-old nephew, who enjoyed the leftovers, thoroughly enjoyed the sweet salad dressing, and my sister gobbled up the remainder of the salad! My brother-in-law, who only had the hummus, commented with each bite as to how good Arab hummus is in Haifa.

Why I loved it: I love the outdoor seating, the patience of Israeli wait-staff and the comfort, laid back ease of dining at this (and other Israeli) establishments. No one is ever rushed out, the bill is never presented to diners until it is requested by them, and there is always a smile on dining faces.

Cost: Average (36NIS – 50NIS per entree)

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