A taste of food heaven

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
A taste of food heaven
The kebab basket is the main course. Hot off the oven, this is a delightful dish of biryani rice, beef kebab with tomatoes and green chili pepper — yum!

Finkels is the delightful coffee shop and Mediterranean restaurant that opened last September in Plainview, Mandaluyong City. It’s owned by Mike Tweg and wife Tine, the same couple behind Bait Lehem (“house of bread” in Hebrew), which is where I get my croissants, pita bread, hummus, and a variety of other artisanal breads. (Mike and Tine are also the proud parents of the beautiful Shira Tweg, 21, who recently made it to Starkada, NET25’s pool of young talents.) 

When Tine invited me for lunch at Finkels a few weeks ago, I immediately said yes. I always enjoy the food she serves since husband Mike is a certified baker who was born in Israel and has worked in Israel, USA, UK, Spain, and now, the Philippines. Together with partner Avi Shani, a friend from way back who is a food engineer by profession, Mike expanded the Bait Lehem menu to offer more than just breads. They’ve since added kebabs, falafels, kofta, assorted dips like baba ganoush and tzatziki with the hummus (my favorite), though these are only for take-out or catered events. With the success of Bait Lehem, it was just a matter of time before they opened a restaurant for their growing clientele.

A must-try when you visit Finkels is their Mediterranean nachos. It’s made of crispy pita bread, sour cream, ground beef, homemade mozarella and a delicious salsa served in a crispy flour tortilla!

Hence Finkels, which is located on an obscure street named Sto. Rosario (one of the side streets along Boni Ave.), which is away from the malls that proliferate in Mandaluyong. The bungalow that is now Finkels used to be a home for the aged that closed when it was no longer profitable. Coincidentally, the area is just a few meters away from the Tweg residence and commissary, so when it was put up for rent, the couple decided to transform the 400-plus square meter property into a coffee shop and restaurant. It even has an outdoor garden that can be booked for private events like wedding receptions or birthday parties, where guests can dine al fresco.  

Proud coffee and restaurant owner of Finkels and Bait Lehem is Tine Tweg.

When you enter Finkels, it instantly gives off a homey, no-frills casual feeling with the aroma of coffee wafting through the air. When you study the menu, you’ll see that it isn’t your typical coffee shop but a specialty establishment that serves Mediterranean dishes. There’s Minced Beef Pide, which is an oval-shaped flatbread baked with spiced minced beef, fresh vegetables and aromatic herbs topped with sesame seeds for an extra crunch; and the original Lahmacun (Turkish pizza), a thin artisanal dough spread with finely seasoned minced beef, tomatoes, onions and parsley with a blend of aromatic spices that’s baked to perfection.

The Grill section offers kebab (chunks of grilled beef or chicken marinated in a special blend of herbs and spices), beef kofta (handcrafted meatballs mixed with aromatic herbs and spices), butterfly chicken (juicy chicken breast seasoned with lemon and thyme), and chicken shashlik (chunks of chicken skewered with bell peppers, onions and tomatoes that’s grilled to smoky perfection). If all these choices sound tempting and you can’t make up your mind, the Finkels Platter has all these, together with hummus and baba ganoush served with laffa and pita bread.

Finkels also offers a variety of thin-crust pizzas that are uniquely theirs, like the lahmajoun, adana kebab, and chicken shashlik. But if you prefer the classics, there’s the double mozzarella (Tine says Finkels’ mozzarella is proudly homemade), Hawaiian, spinach and feta, and pepperoni.

My pick, though, was the Finkels Special, which began with a serving of Mediterranean nachos. These are nachos in a basket with crispy pita chips loaded with melted mozzarella cheese, sour cream, and a house special salsa that was so finger-licking good I couldn’t stop munching them! Good thing that I had enough willpower to leave room for the kebab basket, which was my main course. When it was served, the waiter expertly sliced the top off the giant bread to reveal my adana kebab with biryani rice, grilled green chilies, tomatoes and onion. From the very first delicious bite, I was in food heaven!  

Capping my wonderful Mediterranean lunch was dessert, which was a waffle dusted with powdered sugar drizzled with chocolate sauce and served with slices of peach. Just recalling and reliving my first Finkels experience as I write this is making me crave another first-rate Finkels fix!

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