An invitation to sample the winter menu at Liliyot was accepted with alacrity. Liliyot is not only a successful kosher restaurant in the center of Tel Aviv but is also a social project in action. Since 1999, the management has welcomed youth at risk into their kitchen to provide them with a real opportunity to integrate into society in a positive way by giving them professional training in catering.
Having celebrated several landmark occasions at the restaurant and knowing the high culinary standard, we arrived at the place anticipating a great evening and were not disappointed. The atmosphere is warm and friendly; the place, though large, is intimate; and the lighting is very flattering. What more could one ask? Well, good food for one, but from past experience I knew that the dishes served at Liliyot are innovative and aesthetic, with unusual ingredients and even more unusual combinations. When did you last eat a slice of roasted quince for example? Or a cucumber-tapioca relish? While our waitress, Nofar, opened a bottle of 2008 Yatir blended red wine – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, (NIS 150) – we nibbled on homemade focaccia, dipped in white bean sauce, and perused the menu.
The choices – both for starters and main courses – were many, so it was truly difficult to decide. Under the expert guidance of Nofar, my companion chose the grilled chicken liver dish (NIS 47), which came with bananas, vanilla caramel, parsley and rice curls, while I plumped for salmon sashimi (NIS 48) served with cucumber and melon relish, soy pudding and herbs.
The livers were perfectly cooked, just to the point where they were pink inside but crispy and brown outside, and the sweet accompaniments provided a good contrast. The rice curls – crunchy white puffed-up things – tasted and looked like a children’s snack a la Bamba and added nothing. The chef should consider removing them from the dish.
The salmon dish was very artistic, with the slices of raw salmon contrasting with the green of the herbs. Needless to say, it was ultrafresh, and the ginger-flavored relish provided a perfect foil for the sashimi.
A blob of brown cream at one end of the dish was presumably the soy pudding. It was salty and reminded me of my beloved Marmite and also added a tang to what would otherwise have been a bland dish.
Before the main courses arrived, the kitchen sent out another starter for us to taste. The Atlantic cod on corn bread with tomato foam, elephant bean puree and herbs (NIS 56) was substantial enough for a main course. I didn’t like the sound of “tomato foam,” which turned out to be a red, well, foam, as a garnish and tasted of tomatoes. Somehow, they had whipped it up, and there was probably some gelatin in the dish. Perhaps they can think of a more appetizing name – tomato soufflé, perhaps.
Other starter possibilities included roasted vegetables with bean sauce (NIS 38); veal and leek tortellini in a shiitake and beef fumet (NIS 55); and green leaf salad with balsamic vinaigrette (NIS 38).
The steak was beef tenderloin, very soft and quite rare, and was served with a green mountain of pea puree.
This was where the roasted quince appeared.(NIS 150). It was good. My goose breast (NIS 98) necessitated the removal of a great deal of fat, but it was an uncomplicated process that I had anticipated. The meat that remained had a subtle flavoring of cinnamon and came with Swiss chard and a tart cream of Granny Smith apples. It was a very enjoyable main course. Other choices were prime rib (NIS 53 per 100 gram of meat); sea bream on red bell pepper lasagna, olives, asparagus and cherry tomatoes (NIS 98); and a vegetarian option of homemade rigatoni with zucchini, mushrooms, lemon, green leaves, chili and garlic.(NIS 75).
In order to sample several desserts, we chose the Liliyot selection (NIS 56), which consisted of small but very adequate tastes of apple crumble with pecan and ginger ice cream; chocolate “soup”; a banana and caramel tart with praline ice cream and sweet pecans; and chocolate crunch with bitter chocolate sorbet.
Each of these can be ordered as a larger individual portion for around NIS 40. And there is always fresh fruit sorbet (NIS 32) to round off the meal.
We declined a generous offer of dessert wine.
As we exited the restaurant, we noted that there was barely an empty table.
Liliyiot also offers a business lunch for NIS 79, which is served from Sunday to Thursday between noon and 4 p.m. Many of the dishes on the regular menu can be found there, some costing an additional amount but providing very good value for money.
For a special kosher night out, there’s nothing quite like Liliyot. You get a great meal and also feel that you are contributing to a worthy cause.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
4 Weitzman Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 609-1331