Port Local Bistro
The conclusion, before we begin, is that we don't go to
Caesarea often enough. Caesarea deserves a visit. First because Caesarea is one of the most beautiful places in Israel. On a sunny day - even in the winter - you will find calm seas, bright light and a great view. The second reason for visiting Caesarea is for some of the best kosher restaurants. Once predominantly non-kosher, many of the restaurants in this part of the country have discovered the kosher dining community and have become kosher.
Port Local Bistro Restaurant, now kosher L'Mehadrin, is a fine dairy fish restaurant in the Caesarea National Park. The restaurant overlooks the harbor and the sea beyond. The restaurant has the most gorgeous view, from either the inside seating area or the outdoor deck.
Port Local Bistro has evolved over the 17 years in this space. The calling card of the restaurant was its breakfast, still popular, but overshadowed today by the lunch and dinner menu. The menu offers pizza and pasta but the highlight at Port Local Bistro are the fish dishes.
We made our way to Port Local Bistro on a sunny winter day. Our lunch began with the house focaccia, a warm crispy loaf of bread straight from the taboun oven, served with a mild tomato dip. The focaccia went well with the mixed platter of roasted vegetables served with the spicy Yemenite schug.
The Nile Perch (Nesichat Hanilus) is one of the restaurant's flagship dishes. Nile Perch is a meaty fish, usually served in a spicy tomato sauce. At Port Local Bistro chunks of this sea fish are stir-fried and served on a bed of tahini sauce. The slightly tart sauce with olive oil, crunchy garlic, and spinach, balances the flavor of the fish. You won’t want to miss any of the sauce, so save some focaccia to scoop up the last drop of the tahini sauce.
A fresh crunchy green salad sounds good. This salad includes dates, walnuts and labane. I generally don't like fruit in my green salad.
But this is a specialty salad, they said, and they were right. The dates, the walnuts and the labane balls added to the greens and the onions made this salad zing! But the secret of this salad was the amazing honey-mustard dressing, a secret recipe of some eight or ten ingredients that make this a stand-out salad.
All the dishes that we ate were excellent, and the portions were plentiful enough for two diners to share. Unless you have a hollow leg, this would be the time for Birkat Hamazon.
Who can leave a fish restaurant without having a fish main course?
Whereas I prefer a fillet, only a whole fish, my companion said, is a proper fish dish.
At Port Local Bistro the fish is grilled over coals, the way meat is usually grilled. The great flavors come from the Josper oven, a sealed unit unique at this restaurant. The whole Striped Sea Bass (Levrak) that arrived at our table was charcoal crispy on the outside and white and flaky inside. My companion employed his skill opening the whole fish and separating the meat from the bones. I take exception to the chimichurri sauce served on the platter, as it masks the delicious flavor of the grilled fish. A few drops of lemon would do.
Focaccia with tomato dip. Crunchy potatoes.
No side dish is necessary, but to give us the complete experience the waitress brought out a bowl of crispy potatoes, another house specialty. What is the secret? The potatoes are slow cooked in an oven for 8 hours and then fried to a crisp in butter. Warning: you can't eat just one of them.
Dessert is never really necessary but when it is good, it is a treat. The Port Local Bistro Crack Pie served with a scoop of whipped cream is a treat, with a lovely cup of coffee.
A visit to Caesarea is like a trip abroad. Beautiful calm seas, great view and delicious food, all so close to Israel.
Location: Port Local Bistro is on the waterfront in the Caesarea ancient Roman port area. You must go into the National Park to get to the restaurant. There is an admission fee into the park. Be sure to say that you are going to a restaurant.
Getting There: You can park outside the entrance to the national park, walk over the dry moat outside the wall and through the ruins of the old Roman city. If you are not a walker ask the guard at the gate to let you drive into the commercial area with the restaurants and shops.
From the Menu
Focaccia, served with a mild tomato dip NIS 28.
Mixed vegetables platter with spicy Yemenite dip NIS 22.
Nile Perch in tehini NIS 78
House Salad NIS 68
Whole Striped Sea Bass (Levrak) NIS 140.