Israel: Holy Non-Mackerel

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by Paul Ross

Israel’s Restaurant Future Is Alongside Its Biblical Past

Diners on Decks' deck


Diners on Decks’
deck overhanging
the Sea of Galilee.



The Sea of Galilee. The name evokes many things. Foremost among them is not barbecue. But Decks is a barbecue restaurant built on surprises. It’s also built right on the water with only one side anchoring it to the land in one of the most beautiful spots on what Israelis now call Lake Kinneret. The restaurant specializes in “Biblical Grill,” and that means after sailing in a re-created wooden “Jesus boat,” you can partake of traditional loaves and authentic St. Peter’s fish roasted over the glowing embers of olive trees. Decks also grills local, free-range lamb, chicken, and molard–described on the menu as “a cross between a wild goose and domestic duck.”. And they proudly serve you a lot of whatever you order. Judging from the unfinished portions at every table, someone’s Jewish mother is in the kitchen.


The skewered lamb before
the bonfires is what you see as
you enter Decks gourmet grill.



Skewered Lamb

Dining commences with an onslaught of appetizers including hummus, tahina, mushrooms, a killer onion loaf with American-style barbecue sauce on the side, a half dozen different foccacia breads, and bountiful salads of fresh greens and herbs laced with Golan Heights olive oil and lemon. Next comes the fish: denis –another Mediterranean treat, Dan river trout, and smoked tuna. The finned ones are followed by a parade of meats. In addition to the ones previously, mentioned, there are also grilled goose liver and steaks, both served rodizio-style and carved off long skewers onto your plate, accompanied by grilled seasonal veggies and garlic fries. If you make it this far. The finale is the crepes flambées dessert. This meal comes at you with all the restraint of Middle Eastern politics!

Exhibition cooking is taken to new levels at Decks. You enter past a huge outdoor firepit where sides are being flame-seared to perfection. Then you gawk at the controlled chaos of a grill kitchen where entrees are arranged on platters which are presented on glowing charcoal braziers.

Decks' Exhibition Kitchen


The exhibition kitchen where
braziers are loaded with hot
coals and topped with food to
be brought to the tables.


The bar is a whole other scene. It’s long, packed, friendly, and laden with everything from your favorite call brands to the best margarita this side of the Jordan River. And they even have a non-alcoholic slush that whirls crushed ice with organic lemonade and mint. It’s so good, parents fight their kids for it.


Decks’ outdoor grill with
skewer-tender at work.



Decks' Outdoor Grill

The décor is a wildly-imaginative blend of nautical and Arabian Nights; the wooden deck planking tented by miles of draped fabric which are periodically spiked by a glass chandelier. Somehow, it all works.

The heart of Decks, of course, is the food, particularly the grilled specialties; which are divided into two categories depending upon the type of wood used. There’s the “Biblical” (over olive logs) and the self-explanatory “Hickory.” Meats are local, fresh, carefully-aged, and artfully-marinated. Your taste buds will prompt you to challenge the huge portions.

All-in-all, Decks is such a surprising and fun dining adventure that it may one day be another reason the Sea of Galilee is famous.

Decks Biblical Charcoal Grill Gourmet on the Sea of Galilee

Fax 011-972-4-679-0470

P.O. Box 253, Tiberias, Israel


Recipe: Decks’ Bonfire Grilled Marinated Lamb

Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

Lamb Marinade:

  • 1 cup finely chopped onions

  • 2 tablespoons mined garlic

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 3 tablespoons curry powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper

  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons salt

  • 1 cup water

The Lamb:

  • 3 Lamb Racks (8 ribs each ) trimmed and silverskin removed

  • 1 cup hoisin sauce

To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Place the lamb and marinade in a plastic bag, tie, and place in refrigerator for 48 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove the lamb from marinade and let stand at room temperature 1 hour

before roasting. Brush the lamb with hoisin sauce.

Decks Roasting Technique: Skewer the lamb on fairly thick sticks or skewers and place it around a bonfire about 3 to 4 feet from the fire and roast for 4 to 5 hours, turning occasionally. See the photo for the technique.

Smoking Technique: Place the lamb on a grill in a smoker with a separate fire box and smoke at 210 degrees F. for about 6 hours.

Grilling Technique: In a covered grill, place the lamb on the grill over indirect heat. Turn the heat to low and grill for several hours until done–this is a judgment call.

Yield: 6 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

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