A hidden gem described as serving the best matzo ball soup in Cincinnati sits in a nondescript location on Plainfield Road in Deer Park.
Kinneret Cafe opened in 2007 and is owned and operated by Karen Chiriqui and her Moroccan-born husband, Avner. The menu offers kosher Middle Eastern food (including many delicious-sounding vegan options -- hello seitan shawarma!) peppered with a few pizzas and smoothies.
But I am here for the soup.
“I actually can’t speak to much else on the menu because the matzo ball soup is mostly what I get when I go — that, and the latkes when I'm in a Hanukkah mood," says my friend Ben, who recommended the place. And when you’re feeling sniffly on a cold fall day, what’s better than a bowl of what’s known as the Jewish penicillin?
I order up a steaming bowl, and it is, in fact, perfect. How can something like matzo — renowned for its blandness — be perfect? The broth isn't overly salty (a mistake many often make given the soup’s otherwise bland taste) and the matzo ball is light and doughy. In fact, it’s arguably the Goldilocks of matzo balls; not so hard it sinks, and not so soft you feel like you’re eating a cup of grainy broth. It’s comfortingly warming, and I can already feel my sniffles subsiding.
Now, as yummy as it is, I (correctly) anticipated it not being filling enough to count as a meal, so I also ordered up Kinneret’s starter of what’s called Moroccan cigars — an egg roll-like appetizer that’s fried and filled with ground spiced seitan. The marinara sauce it’s served with gives the dish an Italian vibe, but the spice is mild enough that the cigars can also stand on their own. Other dishes sound intriguing enough to come back with my friend Ben to get him to branch out a little. Dishes such as the Mediterranean plate which is comprised of falafel, baba ganoush, hummus, and stuffed grape leaves complemented by an Israeli salad with pita bread (brought in from an Israeli bakery), or the aforementioned vegan shawarma plate, which includes hummus, Israeli salad, and pita.
Come January 2018, there will be even more enticing options: Karen and Avner are opening a second, more upscale restaurant — Kinneret Grill, a Mediterranean-like steakhouse — just across the street in the plaza on Galbraith Road.
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Kinneret Cafe is located at 8316 Plainfield Road. Get a preview of the Chiriqui’s new location opening soon, plus a look at some of Kinneret Cafe’s dishes, by clicking through the gallery above.