In the beginning (that is to say in 1999) there was Birenbaum and Mandlebaum, a restaurant in which there was neither a Mr. Birenbaum or Mr. Mandlebaum, but that was no problem because for five years this remained one of the two very best steakhouses in the country, with a marvelous and plush décor, fine service and both first and main courses, many of which were creative and nearly all of which were highly successful and could not help but please. By the time 2004 rolled around the Yarzin brothers, among the most successful restaurateurs in Israel, realized that the times they had changed and that people were looking for a more casual, less expensive dining experience. Thus, Birenbaum and Mandlebaum folded up its tent not to vanish but to beget Moses. If one had to categorized Moses it was as a super-high class burger joint. That too was just fine because Moses, like Birenbaum and Mandlebaum had its post-modern humor and the food and service was just fine.
Moses has been around now for six years and I have returned several times during that period, my most recent visit for lunch today. Now that I am no longer an official restaurant critic my dining budget is somewhat more restricted so in entertaining a friend and colleague from abroad we went for the fixed price business lunch.
Our opening course was for a salad and, as much as it pains me to say so, that was a disappointment. Made up largely of iceberg lettuce (what Israelis call chasa America or if one prefers American iceberg) that was far too bitter and a collection of sliced radishes, those in a rather anemic sauce that lacked as much charm as did the lettuce. The salad was helped somewhat by being sprinkled over with some of the spicy ketchup but no matter how we tried to find it, charm was most seriously lacking.
Life improved considerably with our hamburgers, those of 300 grams of good beef. The beef was good enough that I even forgave the kitchen for cooking them medium instead of the medium-rare that we had requested. Served on a tasty sesame seed coated roll with shredded lettuce (damn the man who invented the bitter iceberg lettuce that is sold in Israel), a slice of tomato and slivers of red onion, the burger was fine, my own sprinkled over with a mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup. The French fried potatoes served were fine, crisp on the exterior and just soft enough inside. In my case I chose to have those by dipping them (with the fingers) into mustard and my companion opted for ketchup with his. If I did have a real complaint it was that the service was not nearly as attentive as it should have been. In fact, catching the waiter's eye proved an amusing exercise in frustration.
Our bill for two, including draught beers came to a reasonable NIS 160. Truth be told, even though the burger itself was fine, I have come to expect and hope for far more in the way of service and fewer careless notes from the restaurants of the Yarzin brothers. Whereas once I would have suggested even going out of one's way to dine here, today I can recommend it only if you happen to be in the area and feel like a burger.
Moses: Sderot Rothschild 35, Tel Aviv. Open daily 12:00– 04:00. Reservations recommended. Tel (03) 5664949