Bistro Villa Galilee restaurant is tucked into the charming Villa Galilee boutique hotel, in the Canaana Mountain section of Safed . The hotel and everything about it including the restaurant, is very European. No wonder. The family who owns and runs the hotel and the restaurant came on Aliya from France and the European influence is pronounced.
Bistro Villa Galilee was originally a non kosher restaurant but from Pesach 2010 the restaurant became kosher under the hashgacha of the Safed Rabbanut. The family member who manages the restaurant is himself dati, and there is a full time mashgiach kashrut.
The restaurant is on the lobby level of the hotel. Once you make it to the pool/spa level (about 30 steps or up a serpentine ramp from the parking) you can hop the elevator up to the lobby.
The bistro is open for dinner only, Sunday – Friday from 7pm. In the evening the restaurant has a lovely romantic atmosphere. Tables are beautifully set with cloths and tableware, making it most inviting. Along with the rest of the hotel, the restaurant is decorated with an eclectic collection of plates, pictures and reproductions of classic French art. Wall lighting gives the restaurant a very pleasant glow, and indeed you will feel like you are in a beautiful European restaurant.
When we visited this restaurant at 8:00pm mid week, it was at least half full. We found a cozy table in the corner, blocked from the kitchen by an impressive massive dark wood screen. The pleasant waiter addressed us immediately bringing us menus in both Hebrew and English. In Bistro fashion, this is a one-page menu (in a civilized plastic holder) with starters and main courses. There were just a limited number of very appetizing dishes.
As I am using my restaurant reviewing opportunities to do a comparative study of gnocchi in restaurants throughout Israel, my choice was obvious, It was to be the gnocchi starter followed by the only fish main course on the menu. There was a full array of meat dishes, and if I have one suggestion for this restaurant it would be to add at least one good vegetarian main course. My companion, in his usual fashion, could not disagree with me more. He chose both a beef starter and a beef main course.
Out came the munch-on-this-while you-wait house foccacia served with a light mustard and a pesto dip. The bread was a simple plate of squares of cake-like bread. No fancy baskets and no fancy rolls. Just delicious, warm, and definitely freshly baked bread. Ziiing! Control, I said to myself (and to my hungry companion) hoping that I would be able to abide by my own warning. A full dinner is ahead of us.
I like a restaurant where the starters are just that, and are not so massive that they rival the main dish. This is especially true for gnocchi, which is a heavy carb. The starter was a very reasonable but not overwhelming portion. The gnocchi at Bistro Villa Galilee is potato based, and is served with a sauce of diced fresh tomatoes seasoned with fresh herbs and topped with scallions. The gnocchi pieces are oblong rather than the usual round shape. The flavors were very pleasing and it was a good choice starter. This gnocchi gets a perfect 10.
My companion was served a very beautifully presented roast beef starter. These were slices of cold entrecote meat raosted medium (brown on the outside, red on the inside) sliced thin with a smear of Dijon mustard (mustard with horseradish) on one side, grilled pepper slices on the other side and sprinkled with a garnish of garlic and scallions. This is not at all an Israeli dish, but very tasty. Recommended.
The fish and the meat main courses were served on different types of plates. This is a popular trend at restaurants today that gets my rousing approval. The different plates add variety and visual interest to the table. Though plated differently, both my dining companion and I were served the same vegetables, he with meat and I with fish. No complaints on that score. The fresh green beans were perfectly cooked. The slices of seasoned and baked potatoes, glazed onions (I would not have complained if there were more of those on the plate), and one slice of beet were delicious. The fish fillet was breaded and baked, soft and tasty. This was a very satisfying, hearty and delicious meal.
My companion chose the spare ribs, thinking he was going to get a dish out of the Western US, with bones and barbeque sauce. Wrong part of the world, but he was not disappointed. The spare ribs (three double thick pieces of veal) were off the bone and cooked in wine sauce. French, not Western, but great nonetheless. The meat was cooked medium again, red in the middle and brown on the outside. The menu promised chili and soy sauce, but if so, they were blended perfectly into the wine sauce. The sides on this dish, as mentioned, were the same as for my fish, except for a smear of Dijon mustard on the side of the plate. The meat was set off perfectly by the half-bottle of Carmel Rekes Adom (based on Carignan) wine provided on the house. .
From our experience I must conclude that the kitchen at Bistro Villa Galilee must be very well managed. We were served almost immediately and there was no dilly dallying between courses. The restaurant was pretty full, the dishes were coming out of the kitchen at a clip and all the guests were being served. This is a rare phenomenon at restaurants and a feature that we appreciated.
Who could say no.
There were three choices. We passed on the malabi and chose instead the chocolate mousse and the apple pie. The generous slice of apple pie had a very home-made feel without compromising on the professional presentation. The chocolate mousse was nice for variety, but it is possible to pass on this.
The bottom line:
A perfect ten for Bistro Villa Galilee. Great food, great atmosphere, service, and all the rest. This is one of the excellent meat restaurants in Israel, and certainly one of very few high quality restaurants in Safed. We recommend it highly.