The term "beit midrash" is generally associated with a yeshiva study hall, but the Gillis family of Moshav Nov—two generations of cowboys and breeders of premium beef—has uniquely appropriated the name "beit midrash l’basar" for its monthly Friday workshops on preparing quality beef. Gillis Steakhouse, the steakhouse connected with the butcher shop, serves unforgettable meals that have been personally curated by the knowledgeable proprietors.
The restaurant is open Thursday afternoons and evenings throughout the year—and Fridays during the summer months. Its reputation has extended beyond Israel’s borders: it is regularly scheduled stop for visiting Jewish delegations from overseas. Given the limited hours of operation, reservations are de rigueur.
There are three basic menu formats: a tasting menu per person; a tasting menu designed for two; and a menu built around a main course. Naturally, the tasting menus include all the classic main course options, just in more moderate portion size.
There is also a children's menu, for those under 14.
All of the meal constructs begin with a pair of Gillis signature appetizers, followed by an array of five house salads and two side dishes complementing the meat. There are no cocktails, but a good beverage to start with is Bazelet beer from the tap, brewed just down the road.
The meal commences in earnest with warm pita and hummus massabha containing slow-cooked shredded beef — a satisfying dish that is deceptively filling, especially considering that there are six more courses coming up in the tasting menu.
Next comes a hollowed-out, fire-grilled eggplant stuffed with sautéed ground beef and drenched in Aleppo-style tehina studded with ground pine nuts and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. There are plenty of places in Israel that serve eggplant baladi with tehina, but none are quite as complex and special as this Gillis original.
Along with the eggplant comes a spread of salads, all included in the price of the meal. Noteworthy among them were the tiny cubes of beet, al dente pickled vegetables, and a very spicy tomato salad.
The first beef course was a 100-gram hamburger, served without a bun (although one is available upon request). The naked burger looks miniscule, but it packs a punch well above its size: accented ever so slightly by a drizzle of superb homemade BBQ sauce, the unassuming patty literally oozed juicy flavor. In a country that can now boast excellent hamburgers —even kosher ones—this has to rank among the very best.
Next came a Gillis specialty: sirloin rolls with chimichurri sauce. The proprietary chimichurri—whose secret ingredient is capers—enhanced the delicious meat without overwhelming it, rendering the dish as a whole exquisite.
Accompanying the meat courses were two different kinds of potatoes: twice-cooked wedges—boiled, then deep fried to a golden brown—and the pièce de résistance: a smashed potato: baked, then smashed, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grilled. The potatoes are clearly prepared with the same care as the beef, as the tasty results can attest.
The final two courses are what all the preliminaries are leading up to: the steaks par excellence. First is the entrecôte: 300 grams grilled to perfection— black char strips on the exterior, and gradations of pink to red on the interior—with the maximum flavor coaxed out by the grillmaster’s expertise.
Finally, 250 grams of filet mignon. The steak knife went through the prime beef like the proverbial hot knife through butter, while the tender, succulent meat practically melted in the mouth (one of the tasting menus offers pullet in place of the filet).
Understandably, the wine list is exclusively red, and entirely from Golan Heights wineries known to the Gillis family. Wines are available only by the bottle or half-bottle, not by the glass. Those preferring white wine should ask the server.
The sole dessert at Gillis is also included with all the fixed-price menus: a rich chocolate-hazelnut truffle on a cinnamon stick, that was incredibly rich for having to be pareve.
Needless to say, this level of quality does not come cheap; but considering the totality of the experience and plethora of food, the value is commensurate with the caliber of service and fare.
Moshav Nov, Golan Heights
Tel. (04) 676-3555