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When we contacted Denis Phillips, the proprietor of Freshit, which opened in the Herzliya Pituah commercial center in the first week of June, we suggested coming at around 3 p.m. after the lunch rush had died down. “That’s much too late,” he said.  He thought it wiser to come closer to noon. So at five minutes after 12, we found ourselves standing in line behind a long queue of young men and women working in hi-tech firms in the immediate vicinity.

“Is this what it’s like every day?” we asked as Phillips led us inside. “Yes,” he grinned as he stopped momentarily to greet a customer and to answer the question of another. 

Freshit is essentially a salad bar with poultry and fish available on demand, a health-oriented niche dining option that has found instant appeal.

Phillips didn’t advertise a launch, but the word got around that for two days, people could come and eat for free to see if they liked the menu.

The upshot of that strategy was that he now averages a little over 300 diners a day. That’s actually more than it seems, because the restaurant is only open for business from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

It’s a paradise for vegans and vegetarians.

Former carnivores who are yearning for the taste of meat, but holding back, can comfort themselves with simulated meat balls made from seitan wheat gluten. The taste is more or less like meat, though I found the fish dishes to be far more satisfying. I ordered the salmon which came with a large helping of fluffy non-sticky rice, and the most delicious lightly sautéed green beans I have eaten in years. 

The salmon (NIS 55) was passable, but my companion’s Queen of the Town, as it’s listed on the menu, was truly superb – a spicy Moroccan white fish cooked in piquant tomato sauce. In this case, it was served with whole couscous and tahini. Anyone who is truly hungry and debating between the two fish choices, should go for this dish (NIS 54). Both dishes included a salad of the customer’s choice. Customers are given a deep bowl to fill with more than 40 options, including fresh and dried fruit on the salad bar that stands in the center of the room. 

There are also 16 choices of salad dressings – all made in house. I chose green pesto dressing that was slightly sweet to suit the Polish palate inherited from my parents. My companion chose a pomegranate and balsamic dressing, and each of us selected a different mix of vegetables for our respective salads which we greatly enjoyed.

We were each pleased that we had opted to eat the main course before the salad, because the vegetables were so fresh and inviting that we probably would have gorged ourselves on them and not left room for something more substantial.

THE OVERALL concept, said Phillips, is have something pleasing to both the eye and the tongue, and light enough to go down easily, yet full enough in nutrition, quality and volume to make for a satisfactory meal.
 Freshit’s motto is “Fresh Healthy and Fast.” People simply pay for what they want and are asked whether they are sitting down or taking away.
There is seating capacity for 90 inside, outside and at the bar facing the street. For the first hour we were there, every seat was taken, but few people lingered. They paid, they ate and they went back to work in one of the nearby offices.

A fellow Australian who came with his colleague said, “We eat here all the time,” he said. A first-timer came over to Phillips and said to him, “When I asked about the menu, you told me it was fresh and tasty. You were right. You’ve just got yourself a permanent customer.”

Infused water is available at Freshit free of charge. When my companion asked for a Coke, he was told that only healthy fruit drinks and iced tea are available, and that he could take his choice from the refrigerator.

Phillips made aliyah from South Africa in 2001 and has been in the food business for most of his working life, but this is the first time he has run a place that doesn’t serve red meat.

His previous business was a 40-seat restaurant and deli in Netanya which he built up from nothing, operated for eight years and sold in 2016.

It took him more than two years to find the right location for his next challenge. Phillips and Shlomi Shoshan, who is a chef in his own right, scouted around the restaurants in Herzliya Pituah to see what was popular and what was missing. The most popular restaurant they discovered was one that had several salad options and also had sit-down and take-away choices, but the décor was drab, as was that of the Australian Barbecue.

Phillips and Shoshan devised a concept of light both in terms of food and décor. The Freshit décor is a mix of green, yellow, white and creamy beetroot to complement some of the colors on the salad bar.

For people in a super hurry, there are also ready-made salads in the refrigerator, each of them prepared daily and labelled with the ingredients.

When any section of the salad bar is depleted, the freshly washed and cut items are instantly replaced. Phillips and members of his staff are constantly alert. Tables are cleaned immediately after someone moves away from them. Phillips is a stickler for cleanliness, quality and service.

The only items which are not prepared in-house are whole wheat, spelt and gluten-free breads and rolls.

Hamenofim St. 8, Herzliya Pituah
Kosher under Rabbanut supervision
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

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