After so many of her catering customers raved about her kosher home-cooked-style food and encouraged her to bring it to a wider audience, Meital Betesh took their advice and opened a storefront restaurant in January at 9806 Hillcroft.

Working the past two and a half years as a sought-out kosher caterer, whose specialty was Friday night (Sabbath) dinners and holiday meals, Betesh created a loyal customer base.

Now she brings her strictly kosher Israeli specialty food to the neighborhood with her restaurant called Oh Mama Kitchen.

Born and raised in Israel, where she spent several years as a caterer, Betesh has been in Houston for more than six years. She chose the restaurant name because she wanted a maternal feel to the place and wants her cooking to be compared to “Mama’s home cooking.”

Just inside the small space, delicious aromas invite customers to enjoy the home-cooked goods that await.

As the restaurant name might imply, Betesh acts like an over-anxious mother, trying to feed her child, at the prospect of a new customer sampling her delicacies. With Betesh describing the menu and specialties and personally whipping up quite a few of them fresh, this writer was provided an exemplary culinary experience.

First was her schnitzel sandwich, on thick, fresh-baked challah (bread) sprinkled generously with sesame seeds. She bakes her own challah and has a good supply of it for Sabbath observers.

Served with layer upon layer of sizzling hot fried chicken schnitzel on a bed of vegetables, including white and red cabbage and some fried eggplant with a delicious secret sauce, the entrée delighted through every bite.

Next up was her version of Israeli egg rolls, titled “Fried Tortilla Roll,”  featuring a fried tortilla with ground beef, mushrooms and duck sauce. It was warm, moist, and flavorful at every bite.

While awaiting the specialty – a shawarma sandwich — a sampling of “burikas” was served. This is deep-fried dough with a bit of egg and mashed potatoes in the middle. The exterior was crispy and the inside was warm and tasty comfort food.

Last, the shawarma sandwich was beautifully presented. Served in a pita bread, it is chock full of chicken cut into paper-thin slices, loaded with vegetables and generous amounts of onions and tahini sauce. The pita was soft and fresh.

Other tempting specialties were roasted cauliflower and homemade crouton sticks.

In the coming weeks, Betesh will add a salad bar to the front of her counter to offer all kinds of Israeli salads.

Most proud of her kosher certifications, she explained they meet the criteria for the strictest Chabad kosher laws. (HKA and MKT)

Still busy with catering that she now operates from her restaurant, she offers a range of foods from grilled chicken with carrots and onions to artichoke meatballs with celery and sweet peas. Spicy fried eggplant, stuffed peppers, salmon filets and schnitzels are also among the entrees offered.

Her kebabs are juicy and served with caramelized onions – a popular item among her customers.

For dessert she offers chocolate babka, or rolled chocolate cookies, both made fresh to order.

The restaurant is not associated with a kosher pizza spot next door.
Open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m – 8 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

— By Arlene Nisson Lassin