Little Israel, the long-standing purveyor of imported kosher foods, pita bread, falafel, dips and more, has expanded to open a restaurant at its location in Plaza Los Laureles, in the western San José suburb of Escazú.
Gil Aharoni recently opened the small, no-frills eatery adjoining his parents’ delicatessen. Bright fluorescent lighting and stark cream and white decor are relieved by large pictures of famous Israeli landmarks such as Jerusalem’s Western Wall and the Baha’i temple in Haifa.
Israel’s diverse population and geographical location have resulted in a melting pot of traditional cuisines that include Middle Eastern, Arabic, Mediterranean and Eastern European. The menu at Little Israel consists of authentic Israeli food prepared by Pnina Aharoni and her three helpers. Aharoni says she uses only original recipes she brought from the “old country” 24 years ago, while her husband does the baking, including pita, rye bread and challah, braided egg-enriched Sabbath bread.
The reasonably priced menu features appetizers, salads, main courses and children’s meals ranging from ₡2,825 to ₡6,215 ($5.65 to $12.40,) and desserts from ₡1,695 to ₡2,035 ($3.40 to $4), including 13 percent sales tax.
Eager to have a taste of everything, we ordered the Meza Israeli for two people (₡13,560/$27). It was such a generous portion that three of us couldn’t finish it all. This mixture of tastes, textures and colors is a wonderful choice for those who have difficulty choosing from a menu. It consists of 14 small bowls and plates filled with a selection from the menu and a basket of warm pita bread for scooping or dipping. The hummus chickpea dip and baba ghanoush roasted eggplant dip, both made with a liberal amount of tahini or sesame seed paste, were garlicky, lemony, creamy and delicious. Stuffed cabbage rolls, falafel, kibbe (ground beef croquettes rolled in a wheat crust), kebabs, grilled chicken nuggets and majadra (rice with lentils) all abounded in a cornucopia of flavors. The cucumber in yogurt, coleslaw, Israeli diced tomato and cucumber salad, and pickled veggies were tasty and refreshing additions, and the plate of excellent French fries was a delightful surprise. All the above items can be ordered individually from the menu as appetizers, or with a main course that comes with a choice of three accompaniments.
After so much food, we passed on dessert, although the blintzes and baklava were tempting.
I’m a great fan of Middle Eastern cuisine and found the food at Little Israel very good indeed.
Location: Plaza Los Laureles, San Rafael de Escazú, on the old road to Santa Ana
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday
Phone: 2289-4500, 2228-9775