This afternoon, following my tasting of Saslove wines, I lunched with Barry and Roni Saslove at Tel Aviv's Carmella BaNachala. Chef Daniel Zax was in presence and, as he has done so often in the past, demonstrated handily that he does very nicely indeed with largely local, always fresh ingredients.
We opened our meal by sharing four first courses, the one that most enchanted me being of roasted chili peppers, those with just the mildest hint of heat, set on a bed of soft and almost creamy goats' cheese, sprinkled over with nothing more than lemon juice, olive oil and a bit of crushed garlic. From there it was on to sampling a grilled eggplant, that intentionally cut country-style in coarse bits and set on a bed of fine, rich tchina. Sprinkled over with olive oil, lemon and pine nuts the dish was good enough to finish off with the fine freshly baked white bread that was served.
Next on my agenda were two salads, the first of thinly sliced, perfectly ripe tomatoes, those served with a salty white cheese (from Mey'eeri if I am not mistaken), all complemented by black olives, coriander and chili, and the second of finely chopped fresh herbs made rich by olive oil, lemon juice and roasted cashew nuts. All in all, four dishes, each Mediterranean to the depths of its soul, and each executed with both simplicity and perfection.
Being brave of heart, before my main course, I sampled of the crab bisque. Just thick enough, with the sweet cream making itself nicely felt and adding a touch of decadence, and with a generous amount of calamari and shrimps in the soup, a treat by any standard.
As a main course I had to debate a bit because the lunch menu offers so many dishes which are Carmella specialties and with which I am well acquainted but who was I to resist moving away from the Mediterranean and into France with a portion of choucroute. What amused me was that there was no sign of choucroute (sauerkraut) on the dish that I was served. In its place, however, another Alsatian specialty of spaetzley(call those nokedeli if you prefer), super thin freshly made noodles based on , those first boiled and then treated to a herbed olive oil sauce. With those, two plump sausages, one in the style of knockwurst, the other in the style of bratwurst, both crisp on the exterior, bursting open to the touch of a fork and then bursting once again with flavor. With nothing more than a dab of mustard on each bite, the dish was a treat by any standard.
Be there no question but that chef Zax continues to do things right! No tricks here, just lovely dining in an equally lovely setting. The bill for my own lunch came to a very reasonable NIS 115.
Carmella: Rehov HaTavor 46 (the corner of Rehov Rambam), Tel Aviv. Open Sat – Thurs 12:30 – 23:00 and on Friday from 10:00-16:00 and 18:00-23:00. Tel: (03) 5161417.