Fresh, local, in-season cuisine is the focus at Helena, a restaurant in the port city of Caesarea, Israel. Fresh, local, in-season cuisine is the focus at Helena, a restaurant in the port city of Caesarea, Israel. Fresh, local, in-season cuisine is the focus at Helena, a restaurant in the port city of Caesarea, Israel. (Photo: Helena restaurant)

At this Israeli restaurant, fresh figs are front and center

Helena Restaurant in Caesarea reimagines classic cuisine with new flavors and ingredients.

With the majestic Mediterranean Sea as its backdrop, Helena Restaurant in the port city of Caesarea, Israel, takes pride in offering guests a variety of fresh, local, in-season cuisine – and an awe-inspiring view to go along with it.

Guests at Helena can admire the view amid ancient Roman ruins while dining on fresh, local cuisine. Guests at Helena can admire the view amid ancient Roman ruins while dining on fresh, local cuisine. (Photo: Helena restaurant)

The restaurant, open since 2004, is no stranger to experimentation. Chef Amos Sion is well-versed in developing creative interpretations of classic Mediterranean dishes, to the delight of his guests. It's that skillful merging of flavors, coupled with the restaurant's vibrant setting amid Herodin-era ruins, that has turned Helena into an exquisite dining destination.

Food spread out on table at Helena Restaurant in Caesarea, Israel. Hope you're hungry. (Photo: Helena Restaurant)

Sometimes, the variations of Sion's eclectic menu depend on what he fancies on a particular day, or week, or month. And these days, Sion fancies figs.

figs Purple on the outside, red and juicy on the inside, and perfect all around. (Photo: Nitr / Shutterstock)

Yes, figs. He's putting them in everything – even in the dishes you would never think a fig would belong. Pizza? Seafood? Cocktails? It's enough to make even the most advanced of palates skeptical. What's next, fig-infused filet mignon?

But don't worry. As with most gourmet chefs, there's a method to Sion's madness.

"In Caesarea harbor, there are fig trees, and each time they are in season, the smell starts to spread all over the air," he told From The Grapevine. "So when I have my five-minute walk to the restaurant, I create the combinations in my head."

Chef Amos Sion creates an Israeli Mediterranean cuisine with contemporary and exciting uses of local raw materials and fresh touches of other cuisines. Chef Amos Sion creates an Israeli Mediterranean cuisine with contemporary and exciting uses of local raw materials and fresh touches of other cuisines. (Photo: Helena restaurant)

Indeed, that five-minute burst of inspiration has yielded some pretty knockout meals at Helena.

"I love to elevate street food dishes," Sion said. "The grouper shawarma consists of thin slices of roasted grouper cooked with a common shawarma spice blend of cumin, coriander, garlic powder, paprika, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper and cinnamon."

Helena's grouper shawarma with roasted figs, okra, tahini and date honey. Helena's grouper shawarma with roasted figs, okra, tahini and date honey. (Photo: Helena Restaurant)

"This dish combines the freshness and sweetness of figs and the delicate flavor of the fish," he told us.

That sweet, heavenly aroma of the fig trees dotting Caesarea's idyllic landscape can even be found in liquid (courage) form. Sion and his bar staff concocted their own Fig Old-Fashioned, complete with a cameo from Israel's first and only whisky distillery, Milk and Honey.

It's made with single malt whisky, fig jam, orange bitters and angostura bitters. It's made with single malt whisky, fig jam, orange bitters and angostura bitters. (Photo: Helena Restaurant)

And with that, we'd like to raise a glass to the fantastic fig – and the brilliant minds at Helena who are transforming it.

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At this Israeli restaurant, fresh figs are front and center
Helena Restaurant in Caesarea reimagines classic cuisine with new flavors and ingredients.