Fattoush

Written by on March 20, 2012 in I Eat Haifa, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(No website found at time of publishing) – Ben Gurion Street, Haifa, Israel

How I heard of this place: Fattoush is another of those Ben Gurion staples. It’s been around as long as I can remember and has Baha’is from all over the world enjoying its patio seating, with views of the Shrine of the Bab throughout the day and evening. It was a few years back that I first tried the food; Mojan recommended the Fattoushia and it’s the one thing I ordered on my first visit there.

Type of cuisine: This restaurant’s terrace overlooks the Pedestrian Walk and is great for people-watching. It’s famous for its fresh house salad, filled with mint, green onion, and other surprises, but there’s also a menu of interesting dishes such as sliced chicken breast and green pepper prepared in a wok with Middle Eastern seasonings and served with a small side dish of yogurtlike leben. Lots of good salads, grilled meats, coffees, teas, and desserts round off the menu — the best dessert is an elegant, homemade kanafeh (traditional ancient dessert of baked sweet cheese, grain, pistachio, and watered honey). In winter, when the terrace is too chilly, Fattoush retreats inside its stone house, where there’s an old-fashioned dining room, plus a downstairs Bedouin room with tribal rugs and low divans on which you can stretch out. The music is soft and always right, whether folk, jazz, classical, or Middle Eastern. There’s a short wine list.”

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: My sister and I had already had a relatively large snack when our friends decided to go out for lunch on this gloriously warm and sunny afternoon. We decided to meet them, anyway, and enjoy a special Fattoush dessert and fruit juice. I selected the Home-made Knafi (25 NIS) in order that everyone could share a piece of the well-known, sweet delight. This famous Arabic-Middle Eastern dessert made with sweetened cheese, browned extra thin, served hot with shredded wheat style “noodles” and honey, dusted with pistachios. Chris exuberantly pointed to the Shwarma Fattoush (48 NIS) when I asked him what he was ordering: calf meat slices and onion, fried with oriental spices and served on a “special bread, backed in the Oven“. My sister and her two sons shared two fresh fruit shakes (48 NIS each) made with Strawberry, Banana and other such fresh fruit. Our two dining companions shared the Hummus Baladi (24 NIS), homemade hummus topped with tehina and “whole cooked Chick-peas” and a house salad made with tomato, cucumber, green onion, fresh mint, “home seasoning & topped with home made Croutons“.

What I loved: I truly enjoyed the two bites I took of the Shwarma Fattoush, and wished, later, that I had also ordered one! The knafi is best enjoyed hot, immediately from the oven, and despite that, my nephew found “the hairy cheese” to be his absolute favorite, most of which he, singlehandedly, consumed.

Why I loved it: The outdoors are always beautiful in Haifa and a spring afternoon lunch, looking up at the Shrine of the Bab, or across the bay at Akka cannot be beat.

Cost: Average to high (45-80 NIS per entree)

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