In his parting speech to West Pointers, General Douglas MacArthur said that "Old soldiers never die. They just fade away". As far as restaurant critics are concerned, believe me, we do die and one day that shall be my fate as it will be for every person. Until then, however, I have no intention of fading away. As to restaurant crits - for the moment, I'll post some random reactions here. Later? We shall see……..
Thursday 1 July
Lunch at Tel Aviv's Dalal. Set in an old fully remodeled building in the Neve Tzedik quarter, with its multiple rooms and even an open air atrium and a comfortable terrace, one of the most charming of the city's restaurant and dishes showing vast improvement over my last visit. Dining with a group so many dishes to be sampled, among those a fine beef carpaccio, the beef sliced just as thinly as it should be to maintain its rich flavor, spooned over with a tomato salsa, toasted pine nuts and the smoked jalapeno hot peppers known as chipotle. Equally good a tartar of red mullet, that served with a Mediterranean sauce of yoghurt and fresh herbs, and a terrine of chicken livers served with a pear poached in red wine, all together with a confit of cherry tomatoes. My favorite was an offering of calamari heads and tubes, those tossed together with whole slices of thick bacon. Truth be told, when the waitress came by I asked if it would be possible to order some additional bacon. Her smile made it worth while. That she then returned with a plate with eight slices of that fine bacon made things even better.
As a main course I opted for broad past leaves, those rolled around a filling of finely chopped beef that had been blended together with a rich, just spicy enough tomato sauce, all finished in the oven with a Parmesan cream. Simple but excellent. Two desserts – a terrine of dark chocolate, that as rich and smooth as one could want and a well done tiramisu.
Fine service, pleasant ambiance and reasonable prices. Well worth visiting.
Dallal: Rehov Shabazi 10 (Neve Tzedek), Tel Aviv. Open daily 12:00-23:00. Tel 03 5109292
Sunday 4 July
Lunch at Coffee Bar and was glad to note that this remains one of the few restaurants in Israel in which a room is set aside, isolated comfortably from the rest of the premises, in which smoking is allowed. No fear though – plenty of smoke-free room for non-smokers.
Opened with a chicken liver pate, that just firm enough, smooth and full of rich flavors those comfortably enriched with brandy and juniper berries. Served with toast points and butter and topped with a fig that had been grilled almost to jam-like consistency, a treat. That followed by one of my oft-repeated favorites here, a 350 gram entrecote steak, that pan-fried and topped with whole roasted garlic cloves, those soft and sweeet, the steak done medium-rare as requested and happily, with a rim of fat still intact. With the steak a fine butter rich potato puree. Dessert,a layered chocolate and crème patisserie concoction so rich that one might have thought it was going in "via a vein" but so delicious that every bite made its way into my body.
With fine brasserie style culinary offerings, friendly but not familiar service, a welcoming atmosphere and prices that are moderate, Coffee Bar remains one of my favorite haunts ports of call in the city.
Coffee Bar: Rehov Yad Charutzim 13, Tel Aviv. Open daily from 07:00 - 24:00 or later. Telephone 03 6889696.
Tuesday, 7 July
As to the croque madame taken at Tel Aviv's Brasserie, what can I say. The traditional croquet madame one of the favorite street and café foods of France and French-speaking Switzxerland, is made by placing one slice each of ham and cheese (Emmenthal or Gruyere being the French choices), those topped with a fried or poached egg between two slices of bread, sprinkling the top over generously with a mixture of milk and shredded cheese and then toasting the whole between the plates of a hot griddle. In this case the sandwich was of the ham and cheese between bread and two fried eggs sat on the top. The restaurant critic in me lives on even when not "on duty" so I must comment that in addition to being impossible to pick the sandwich up in the hands the sandwich was too dry, the cheese had too little flavor and the ham slice was so thin that it went largely unnoticed. I continue to marvel at how I am invariably pleased when dining at Coffee Bar and equally invariably not pleased at Brasserie even though the owners and much of the staffing is the same at the two restaurants. Despite the headline about me on one of the Hebrew internet sites this evening, I shall return but only if I hear things have gotten a great deal better.
Brasserie: Rehov Ibn Gvirol 70, Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 6967111 Open 24 hours daily.
Wednesday, 8 July
A wine tasting today at Tel Aviv's Mel & Michelle and with that a buffet lunch of a large variety of mezes.
Now in its fourth year, this remains the kind of intimate Italian trattoria that you would be just as happy to find in Rome or Milano. A small bar, 1950's style wallpaper, a few appealing sketches on the walls, pressed white tablecloths and high quality wine glasses come together nicely as does the food which remains a comfortable blend between the Italian and the Mediterranean.
The first dish I sampled was a delight - lightly pickled sardine fillets, those sprinkled over with bits of anchovy and olive oil. Being a hedonist I could not resist placing those on slices of the thickly cut, thick crusted white bread that was served. From there it was onto a salad of calamaris and a dish of artichoke hearts and stems, the calamaris just as chewy as they should be and the lemon rich artichokes almost melting in the mouth. From there it was on to two small plates (one was fine but two were better) of gnocchi cubes in a creamy porcini mushroom sauce that was good enough to finish off with the bread.
Nor was this the end, for from here it was on to two slices of a mini-pizza, that with a thin, flavorful crust and just the right combination of melted cheese, each slice topped with a quarter of a red pepper that had an enchanting touch of heat to them. And who, after all, would I be to reject the rewarding coarse eggplant salad with chunks of blue cheese in them.
On my next visit it will be to return again to the home made Italian sausages that are offered and once again to return to the forty egg yolk parpadelle pasta that I remember so fondly, tht served with buttarga (salty fish roe) and chopped bits of calamari. Prices are moderate and the service is fine. Consider trying the special house wine, a GSM made by Sea Horse Winery.
Mel & Michelle: Rehov Ben Yehuda 155, Tel Aviv. Open Sun-Fri 12:00-15:00 and 19:00-24:00. Tel 03 5293232.
Monday, 12 July 2010
Following a wine tasting at Derekh HaYain, I made my way to the nearby Shigi-Digi. As odd as the name is, this restaurant is even more odd, its appearance somewhere between the movie Jaws and the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise. Whetever, after 40 some wines, hunger set in and it was to Shigi-Digi that I made my way with a hamburger in mind.
The burgers offered here come in a variety of sizes and no matter what you order the meat will be divided into either two or three portions, each grilled separately and set on its own roll. I was glad to note that a 300 gram Shigi-Digi consisted of two 150 gram burgers, each on a roll about 1/3 the size of the usual hamburger roll. Truth be told, for a fast food eatery the burgers were quite good - the beef fresh and with just enough fat, the rolls actually full of flavor, the sliced tomato and shredded lettuce as fresh as one could want. Nothing fancy..just good all beef burgers and served with a variety of sauces (for one I selected Heinz mustard, for another a spicy barbecue sauce).
As to side order, I went for the French fries (we Israelis call them "chips") and those, served in a generous portion were fine as well, crisp on the exterior, soft on the interior and unlike most of the chips one gets these days, full of flavor. I started off with those just with salt but then yielded, divided my portion into two, used mustard for dipping half and a spicy mayonnaise sauce for the other half. Perhaps needless to say, my beverage of choice was for a cold Tuborg beer.
My bill - a most reasonable NIS 65. And honestly, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
ShigiDigi: 10 Ha'arba'a Street, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 561-3888. Sun 11:30-24:00; Mon-Thurs 11:30-03:00; Friday until an hour before Shabbat; Sat from close of Shabbat until 02:00. Kosher.