It is with a heavy heart that I write my first blog post about a lukewarm restaurant experience in Tel Aviv. In fact, I’m willing to say that the only thing that kept the outing from being a complete restaurant failure was the relatively friendly waitress.
We started the evening off with a plan to go to a place called Ester Café, a kosher restaurant on Ben Yehuda Street that, if searched for on the internet, would elude almost all detection. Doug and I passed it many times but never had the chance to stop in for a bite.
Upon arriving to Ester Café, we found that its menu was rather limited. It appeared to be mostly a breakfast restaurant. A homely woman, seeing the group’s hesitation to sit, came over and informed us that they had various pasta dishes and other specials that didn’t appear on the menu. Unfortunately for my stomach, the group was uninterested in remaining at Ester Café.
After much debate involving many suggestions and rejections by all, we settled on a restaurant called X-Ray on Bograshov Street (I omit the exact address in the interest of saving any adventurous readers an unfortunate experience). From the first time it was suggested as a dining locale, I was hesitant. Something about the bright-blue neon sign and clashing decorations made me feel that the quality of the restaurant’s food would be lacking. But, with no other viable options remaining (which seems almost shocking to me now, considering the number of restaurants in Tel Aviv I have on my to-eat-at list), we settled in for a night of shockingly disappointing and cold food.
After being seated and welcomed by a very friendly waitress who made aliyah a few years ago and had recently been released from the army, I thought my initial perceptions may have been wrong. She was enthusiastic and chatty, providing us all with useful recommendations as we struggled to make our choices.
Personally, I struggled between buffalo wings and gnocchi with cream truffle sauce. After finding out that the mashed potatoes I hankered for as my side for the buffalo wings was dairy (and therefore not actually an option as I don’t mix meat and dairy), I opted for the gnocchi… with a side of mashed potatoes (had to satiate my craving!) My companions ordered chicken liver with mashed potatoes, roasted eggplant with tahini sauce, lasagna, and sweet potato ravioli.
As we waited for our main courses, those with salads ate with gusto. The balsamic vinaigrette was good—for the first bites, anyway. It was syrupy and sweet, setting it apart from other balsamic vinaigrettes. Unfortunately, while at first intriguing and exciting, it became increasingly sweet with every bite until it became overwhelmingly so. Ah well, onwards to the mains.
|Salad with balsamic vinaigrette|
The eggplant with tahini sauce arrived. The eggplant was largely tasteless and bland, but with no real consequence because there was so much tahini sauce that the eggplant’s flavor stood no chance anyways.
|Eggplant drowned in tahini|
The chicken liver with mashed potatoes was, reportedly quite good (I didn’t try it). The mashed potatoes were tasty and the chicken liver was very creamy, combining to make a dish that screamed comfort food for the lucky diner who opted to order it.
|Chicken liver with mashed potatoes|
The lasagna, meanwhile, came off tasty and flavorful. The sauce was purportedly delicious, particularly given the fact the those who tried it felt they could taste the meat in the sauce. Unfortunately, the lasagna seemed to lack cheese and was, upon reaching the center, cold. Not just chilled from passing time, but outright cold. On the bright side, after sending it back for reheating, it returned thoroughly heated and sprinkled with fresh basil.
The lasagna wasn’t the only thing that arrived cold. My side of mashed potatoes, while delicious (it was my favorite dish) was cold upon arrival. It was very disappointing, considering I had an intense craving for warm, creamy mashed potatoes. My gnocchi, meanwhile, was rather tasty at first. The cream sauce was rich and rewarding… until I reached a very salty bite. After that, everything tasted overly salty.
|Gnocchi with truffle cream sauce|
The overall favorite for the night (which isn’t saying much) was the sweet potato ravioli. Everyone seemed to love it, appreciating how creamy it was and how well the flavor of sweet potato was preserved in the raviolis. For my part, I thought it wasn’t bad. I was surprised by the sauce, though, which was quite salty. Although, in hindsight, my surprise seems misplaced. Despite the fact that the sauce was supposed to be a basil cream sauce with garlic, it was identical to my cream truffle sauce. Call me crazy, but I feel like the two shouldn’t have that much in common. On the bright side, the raviolis looked really cool—with one side orange and the other side cream-colored, it was a fun dish to look at, if nothing else.
|Sweet potato ravioli with "basil-cream" sauce|
|Colorful sweet potato ravioli in basil-cream sauce|
And so it was, with the taste of salt lingering in my mouth, that I returned home epically disappointed and wishing that I had re-visited Piccola Pasta, Odelia, or HaPizza instead.