All heads in the restaurant turned when Maccabi Tel Aviv’s superstar Derrick Sharp entered the restaurant. Many of the diners called him over to their tables. He gracefully accepted the invitations and stopped at the tables, smiled to the iPhones and signed the napkins.
Sharp, a Florida native who became an Israeli after a successful basketball career here, is one of the partners in a new New York-style steak-house in Tel Aviv. But the real star of the place is the meat, and the person who is in charge of the quality of the food and the restaurant is Yankele Schein, a veteran restaurateur and expert in creating successful eateries around the world.
Good steaks, much like good basketball, are to be found in America. In fact, the two things I miss the most about not living in New York are the Knicks games at the Garden and the steaks at Sparks. It was there that I first tasted a really good steak, charred on the outside yet juicy and full of flavor on the inside, which in one bite changed forever my conception of what a good steak is all about.
When Schein brought a piece of meat to our table, the likes of which I had never seen before in Israel, and told me about the customized aging room where he stores and ages only the best cuts he can get his hands on (he pointed to the back of the restaurant where a huge pane of glass stood between the diners and a couple of tons of prime cuts), he also mentioned his ace in the hole – a special steak oven that he purchased for his restaurant. He believes this oven is where the secret to excellent steak lies. The oven produces extreme temperatures that seal the steaks on all sides in a matter of seconds, preserving the juices and flavors yet producing that divine grilled flavor.
But before we got to the reason we went there (the meat), we looked around. The restaurant is furnished in a fashion that is both very manly – dark and elegant – but has softness in the purple touches and other elements. The semi-open kitchen, as well as the look of the awaiting prime cuts, immediately makes one understand that this place is about serious eating.
The second obvious thing we noticed as we read through the menu was the reasonably priced wines.
Most restaurants make a better profit on the drinks and wine than on the food, tripling the price of the wines and spirits. But Schein’s philosophy is to let people really enjoy themselves.
So he made sure to select good wines, both local and imported, and price them modestly, many around NIS 120-160.
There are many starters on the menu, and Schein wanted us to taste them all. But we had a peek at the meat earlier and wanted to reserve room, so we only nibbled on the fantastic breads, served with a small plate of fresh tomato and olive oil dip.
The carpaccio (NIS 49), made from fillet of beef, was excellent, the way it should be: Fresh, red, paper thin, doused in olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan shavings.
The salmon carpaccio (NIS 46) was prepared perfectly, and the chopped liver (NIS 39) served with pink horseradish and crostini, pickles and cream was just right. I have to admit that I love chopped liver, especially when paired with a cold glass of beer. On any other day, I would have considered that a satisfying meal, but since we were promised that steak, I limited myself to only a few mouthfuls. Each of the starters was large enough to be served as a main dish but Schein, much like other restaurateurs in Israel, maintains that “Israelis like to see a lot of food on their plates.”
The sparkling water we asked for arrived in a glass bottle with the restaurant’s logo. “We bottle it on the premises,” Schein told us. Another nice touch.
Every dish that we tasted was simple but delicious. Not elaborate, sophisticated or inventive but just good food created lovingly by someone with a lot of experience.
And then came the moment of truth – a perfect prime rib, the likes of which we only tasted at New York’s best. It was served with the bone sliced halfway on the side so we could pick the marrow. Oh, what a sight! Every bite of the steak was heavenly. Stuffed as I was, I even nibbled on the bone like carnivores do.
The side dishes – thick, hand-cut, perfect French fries, creamed spinach and a delicious coleslaw – were another example of Schein’s philosophy: simple but perfectly executed dishes that are both satisfying and comforting.
Steaks are priced according to weight, about NIS 30 for 100 grams of steak on the bone. The excellent 250-gram hamburgers made from prime meat and chopped on the spot are NIS 68.
When Schein said it was time for dessert, we declined and went to sit out on the terrace with an espresso.
And we sat there for another hour, dreaming of New York.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Shine & Sharp
65 Yigael Alon Street, Tel Aviv