Jul 21, 2011

What Dreams May Come

By: Judith Goldstein

Last night we had the pleasure of attending Mezcal's (best Mexican restaurant in Tel Aviv) private tasting party for the upcoming expansion of Mezcal in Florentine. Owner's Ziv and Esther Erlich generously invited the members of TasteTLV to taste some of the new items on the menu, talk about what's to come and just enjoy some foodie company. The dinner was hosted by one of Mezcal's regulars, Ran, who graciously invited everyone to his home and recreated the Mezcal we know, love and miss. There was even the Frida Kahlo picture that was previously at Mezcal. The attendees including Mezcal's regulars, friends of Ziv and Esther and other food aficionados. We met the artist, Adi, who painted the Frida Kahlo painting with the parrots that adorned the Mezcal wall and she gave us the buzz on her new painting for the expanded Mezcal, we don't know much about it but we know that it will be a picture of Diego Rivera, I'm sure that it'll be as beautiful as the picture of his wife.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by Ziv and Esther and the Mezcal staff; chef Kaley made the delicious dishes and right away they took our drinks orders: a choice of Mojito, Caipirinha, and Beer. Then we got to taste some of the dishes. We started with the tostada which was on the old menu and will remain on the new one, it was as delicious as ever. Then we tried a salad on the new menu; The salad was made with green leaf lettuce, bitter herbs, tomatoes, red onions, beets and pomelo and was topped with a chili-lime vinaigrette. It was full of flavors- sweet, bitter, citrus, and spicy and full of texture. The salad will be a light alternative to some of the more robust dishes on the menu. Then we had the new chile con carne and Mexican rice. The chili is a recreation of the old one, this one more hearty with added vegetables and chipotle peppers. And last but not least we had a reinvention of a favorite dessert, the banana and chocolate wrapped in tortilla, served with fresh ice-cream and caramel sauce. The variation is to bake the tortilla instead of frying it. We had mixed opinions on what was better but I have no doubt that either way it's going to be devoured like it was last night.

The best part of the evening was when we had the chance to sit with Ziv and Esther and really talk about the new menu. I can't even begin to describe how excited we are for what's to come, we are seriously waiting at the edge of our seats for Mezcal to re-open so we can savor these dishes. Now that Ziv and Kaley have a bigger kitchen to work with, some of the old classics will be remastered, such as the mole- made from scratch from A-Z and they will use dark and light chicken meat, which they will simmer for hours until it reaches the right texture and consistency- they are going to take it to another level. Ziv will also introduce some new exciting dishes, such as fried calamari with poblano pepper sauce. He's going to play with some new salsa recipes that he's been brainstorming. However, the thing that Ziv was most eager to talk about are the new dishes that are very authentically Mexican. With literally a sparkle in his eye, Ziv begins to tell us that they will begin to use different cow organs in dishes, such as the tongue and the brain, they will be introducing really simple tacos that come on fresh corn tortillas and are served (like in Mexico) with only a side of salsa, one of these include the tongue taco (which I'm the most excited for).

Ziv a true lover of Mexican food and culture and as a purist to the cuisine, feels very passionate about sharing with Israelis authentic Mexican food. Ziv is really a pioneer in this cuisine as far as Israel goes, but he's also a pioneer for any place in the world. There aren't many Mexican restaurants, even in the States, that will serve very authentic food, because they are trying to please the local palette. Ziv is bold and brave and clever. He's mixing it up on the new menu with some Mexican-Mediterranean dishes, some dishes that resemble Mexican cuisine and some nitty gritty authentic dishes, really giving everyone a choice to fulfill their pleasures. We are sure that whatever dreams may come, Ziv and his staff are going to continue to pave the way for Mexican cuisine in this country and will continue to be one of the best restaurants in the city- with passion and commitment to food like Ziv has- there is no other way it can be!

Jul 17, 2011

Amore Amore Mio?

Written by Judith Goldstein

Name: Amore Mio
Address: Ibn Gvirol 100
Phone Number: 03-524-4040
Hours: Sun-Sat 12pm-12am
Daily lunch specials till 4pm
Reservation recommended; for Friday and Saturday nights 1-2 weeks in advance
Great for big parties

On a long walk and we stumble past a seemingly charming restaurant on Ibn Gvirol. The food on people's plates looks good enough so we walk in. The hostess is surprised that we don't have a reservation, but we manage to get seats anyway.
Once inside the interior looks familiarly Italian, with a Sicilian edge. A blown of picture of the owner's family in Rome accents the wall in front of us. They are sitting at a table, Godfather style with a couple of bottles of red wine perched in front of them. The interior is mildly dark, with exposed brick, and plenty of chotchkies adorning the walls. It's big and small in the same breath. Large parties gather around us, clinking wine glasses, licking foam off their beers. It's festive inside. A perfect place for your loud toddler.

The menu is direct, first courses include Carpaccio, Bruschetta and other things I can't quite remember. A simple selection of Pizzas, mostly tomato based sauces for the Pasta, but a few surprises here and there. There is home-made gnocchi- varies seasonally and Rissotto. We ordered the 4 cheese pizza, insalta verde, and the eggplant and black olive pasta. The pizza had a thin crunchy crust, the cheese was sharp and tasty, and overall it was simply a treat. The pasta was drenched with sauce, lacking the subtlety in traditional Italian cooking, but it was still tasty and robust. I hoped that the insalata verde would be served at the end of the meal, like the way it is in Italy, but it was fresh and cool and the salad dressing was lightly drizzled, giving it a scrumptious bite, yet maintaining the flavor of the green leaf lettuce.

Overall the atmosphere, food and friendly service proved to make Amore Mio a well rounded stop. A perfect place for families and big parties. Bantering children fit perfectly well in this warm, boisterous environment and when all is said and done you feel like the family in the picture, relaxing amongst loved ones and enjoying the dishes in front of you. Do I Amore Amore Mio? Let's just say, I like it a lot.

Jul 1, 2011

Heaven at Herbert Samuel

By Chelsea Truesdell

I have finally found love in this bustling and crazy city of Tel Aviv. I never would have thought it would happen so quickly, but it did. I have never felt so satisfied, so comfortable, and so daring in my entire life. I’m so in love that it’s all I think about, dream about, and talk about. Some things you just can’t control… and I have fallen in love with Herbert Samuel.
Herbert Samuel isn’t a name you can just toss around. Headed by renowned chef Yonatan Roshfeld, Herbert Samuel is a gourmet up-beat restaurant in Tel Aviv that serves fine Israeli-haute cuisine with the freshest ingredients and a creative twist. The restaurant itself overlooks the Mediterranean on Hayarkon, giving you a dining experience you will never forget (if you don’t mind the new gas station put in right across the way.)

Since the menu changes seasonally, even weekly, you are guaranteed never to enjoy the same meal twice, but instead experience the ever-changing creative cuisine that chef Yonatan Roshfeld shares with Tel Aviv. When I went to Herbert Samuel, I was told to order any fish dish, since the fresh seafood is what the restaurant is best known for.
The menu at Herbert Samuel is in the form of a tapas style restaurant, offering small plates of every dish as tasters, as well as medium sized portions. Because I wanted to experience as much as possible, I ordered the small version of every dish I wanted to try.

The first dish I ordered was the “Tomato Salad.” Don’t let the simple name fool you; this was the best tomato salad I have ever eaten. The plate came out with a variety of tomatoes sliced up, all different colors and sizes. Not only were they different types of tomatoes, but some were charred and some were refreshingly cold, giving the dish a unique twist in texture. The tomato salad was topped with rich Turkish cheese, sliced radish, onion, egg yolk (something unexpected), garlic and basil. Each ingredient was distinct in flavor but came together in a fresh and innovative way, letting me taste something I have never experienced before.
The second dish came out in a beautiful presentation. The server called the dish the “Infamous Balkan Shrimp Salad,” and I can see why. The salad was a bed of fresh spinach and cilantro, charred okra, grilled sweet onion, all topped with lightly grilled plump shrimp. The plate was painted with a stroke of tangy light yogurt and a an olive tapenade, both working in unison to compliment each other’s flavors. The presence of the okra gave the dish an African influence.
I ordered the Goat Cheese Ravioli, because I can never pass up home-made pasta. The dish was very unique in that it was two large pieces of ravioli, rather than a collection of smaller pieces. The ravioli was truly packed full of surprises- topped with toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs, crumbled hardboiled egg, and a light olive oil sauce, it was unlike any pasta dish you would find in other Tel Aviv restaurants. The goat cheese stuffed inside was rich and creamy, causing me to lick my lips after every bite.

My favorite dish was reason alone to come to the restaurant. It was sea bass sliced open on the top and stuffed with pesto, fluffy gnocchi, fresh herbs, shaved fennel, and grilled onion. The entire dish looked like there was a party happening on the fish! The meaty consistency from the fish was complimented by the rich potato gnocchi on top, giving you a variety of textures throughout the entire dish. A light and buttery lemon sauce covered the whole plate, bringing all the flavors together without over-powering them. As my mother would say, “You can’t eat gold but if you could it would taste like this.”
The desserts ordered took the restaurant into a whole new ballgame. Because all the desserts are made in-house, we couldn’t decide one. The waitress surprised us with bringing out one, and giving one to us on the house. One of the desserts brought out was a cheese cake, but this cheesecake was something I have never experience in my life! It came out in a beautiful presentation, paired with a scoop of raspberry sorbet and a stroke of pistachio glaze. The cheesecake itself was a dome of rich and velvety half-baked cheesecake topped with a thick green pistachio glaze and crowned with a ring of sliced juicy strawberries. The richness of the cheesecake was perfectly complimented with the zesty cold texture of the sorbet. You can definitely not find a dessert like this is any other Tel Aviv restaurant.
The last dessert was called “fruit salad,” but it was much more than what the title led on. The dessert was diced tropical melon pieces, paired with a large scoop of pistachio ice-cream and tiny balls of compressed pistachio covered with toasted shredded coconut. The entire plate was covered in sweet coconut milk, giving the dessert a tropical taste.
Herbert Samuel is a foodie’s heaven. Every dish is unique in presentation and bursting with the freshest flavor. The staff is friendly and very helpful, making you dining experience seem like their pleasure. You won’t find any other Tel Aviv restaurant dishing out such inventive and creative dishes, all crafted with an eye for detail and attention to taste. If you want to enjoy delicious cuisine of Tel Aviv, I dare you to fall in love with Herbert Samuel.