Aroma. Chef restaurant. Yes, you heard right. The familiar name also threw me off with the immediate association with the coffee and sandwich chain, until, that is, I arrived at the Zichron Yaakov restaurant and was served one of the best shrimp dishes I’ve ever tried. ‘I was here first,’ explains Ido Niederman, chef and owner, ‘and as a veteran Zichron resident I’m stubborn. I’m not changing the name. They can change it if they want.’
Aroma Chef Restaurant, was established in 1992 as the first gourmet restaurant in Zichron (‘When I started there was a café, a falafel stand, and a Yemenite restaurant.’) The restaurant is located on the ground floor of an 80-year-old building that belongs to the Neiderman family. Four generations of the family artwork hang on the restaurant’s walls or sit on shelves (including pieces by Neiderman’s grandmother, mother, 16-year-old daughter, and as his own) along with authentic old objects from the time the community of Zichron was established, like an antique public telephone.
Amongst all the history and art there is also food to be sampled, of course. To start, fresh focaccia with simple butter and garlic, tehina with cherry tomatoes, and an interesting spread of roast eggplant in sweet chili sauce. Then comes soup: thick and rich onion soup topped with melted cheese and a light and slightly sweet cabbage soup. House wine is poured.
For appetizers we get an amazing piquant dish of artichoke covered in cream, goose breast and Parmesan cheese. The unique flavour combination, the tanginess of the artichoke with the crunchiness of the goose breast and slight sweetness of the cream makes my palate dance a little pasodoble. We also received a more conventional, but no less tasty, dish of chicken liver pate served with toasts and onion jam.
For the main course we change tables. The new table is warmer and looks out at the street on one side and at the bar on the other, which contains glass jars filled with preserved fruit and liqueur made by Neiderman. We are served ostrich filet medallions, sautéed in sweet cream, Dijon mustard and white wine. The thin medallions are adorned with the delicate sauce, which added colour and flavour to the very low fat ostrich meat. The other dish – shrimp sautéed in tiny capers and lemon, was among the best shrimp dishes I’ve ever tried. ‘Where are these capers from?’ I naively ask Neiderman. ‘There’s this guy in Kfar Shmariyahu who imports them for me. I drive over there especially to get them every so often.’ Now that’s commitment.
We end on a sweet note with hot chocolate fudge with French vanilla ice cream – a classic tasty home recipe in the Neiderman family for more than 80 years, which grandma would make for special occasions. The ice cream is served with… a cherry tomato? No, sorry – not a cherry tomato at all, but a pitango which has been picked from the tree this instant. ‘I’ve been mistakenly chided before that dessert is not meant to be served with cherry tomatoes,’ jokes Neiderman. According to Neiderman ‘eating healthy is a combination of quality time, good company, serenity, well-made food and good quality wine.’ I guess that means I’ve just eaten a most fully balanced meal.
Aroma Chef Restaurant
66 Hamaysadim, Zichron Yaakov