Catch of the day

A kosher seafront fish restaurant had 'tourist-trap' written all over it served, much to our gourmet taster's surprise, one of the best meals in Tel Aviv.

By LAURA TAUB
November 26, 2010 16:10
4 minute read.
Fish

Fish 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Making our way to the restaurant located on Tel Aviv’s coastal strip, we assumed that Armando would be yet another tourist trap taking advantage of the sea view and nearby hotels.

Add to it the “kosher” stamp given to the restaurant recently, and we really didn’t expect anything much. Boy, were we wrong! After eating there, I can honestly say that Armando is one of the better restaurants in Tel Aviv, certainly in terms of the quality and freshness of the ingredients, the chef’s expertise and the excellent value for money.

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Armando, the namesake of restaurateur Armando (Ami) Kadosh, offers fresh fish and meat dishes, as well as an impressive range of small salad dishes that are included in the price of the main dish (but can also be ordered separately), in the traditional local style.

You may choose to sit in a front patio, which appeals to most patrons. But we were there to eat, so we chose to sit inside in one of the booths. The seating is very comfortable, in a traditional European bistro-style decor that is spacious, elegant and spotless to the point of making you feel guilty (the way you might feel visiting the home of a Jewish-Moroccan family). The resemblance doesn’t stop there.

As we sat down, we were presented with freshly baked breads and a variety of homemade salads, most in the style you would be offered by a Moroccan homemaker at a Friday night family dinner. The salads, a colorful array in small white square dishes, kept coming. There was spicy carrot salad, delicious zucchini salad, fried cauliflower, roasted red pepper, fresh beet root, coleslaw, another cabbage salad, sweet potato salad, egg salad and an entire charred eggplant with tehina sauce, a large plate of homemade humous, preserved lemons, lettuce and cherry tomato with basil, and tabouleh with pomegranate seeds. The salads were not only attractive but were also made from the freshest vegetables and very tasty.

Armando boasts a fine wine cellar, but we chose the house white, which proved to be a local white Viognier that was excellent. Now most restaurants serve cheaper wines as their “house,” making you choose a more expensive bottle from their selection. Armando is different. Ami says he chose his house white and red very carefully, offering his patrons only what he likes to drink.

At this point, despite our protests and even before choosing our main dish, we were given a taste of delicacies from the kitchen: a plate of three fish cakes that we tried (to no avail) to get the recipe for (they were so good we fought for the third one); a dish of homemade ekra (fish eggs) salad; and very good, fresh from the barrel herring, the kind you normally didn’t. Our attentive waiter tried to offer refills but we resisted, waiting for the main event.

Being in a fish restaurant so close to the Mediterranean water, we felt like having the catch of the day. Ami suggested we take a whole sea bass (800-900 gr.) baked in salt. This method of preparing fish keeps it moist, using no fat. It is perfect for white sea fish such as sea bass. We weren’t disappointed. It was probably the best fish we had eaten in a restaurant in Israel. The fish needed no sauce or seasoning, it was so good.

Fresh whole fish are not the cheapest dish on the menu. They are sold by their weight, and that day the sea bass was NIS 22 for 100 gr., but it was well worth the price.

Ami uses only balady organic vegetables, the very best fish and meat cuts and excellent olive oil. The cooking methods used by his stuff are ones he learned from his mother and over the many years he spent as a chef in Israel and in Canada, where he had his own chef restaurant.

One of the Ami’s favorite dishes, which we didn’t try, is a fish stew prepared by his mother. One needs to order the dish 24 hours before arriving, so we promised ourselves to try it the next time we go there.

Meat lovers can find many good steaks at Armando, made from the best cuts, as well as excellent, tender lamb chops.

We were too full to have dessert but were nonetheless given a halva mousse that didn’t fail the kosher test and was delicious, despite the lack of butter and cream.

When we left, we promised ourselves to go back there soon. After eating in many trendy chef restaurants that try to reinvent cooking, it was such a relief to get what can only be described as very good food.

Armando, kosher fish restaurant, 88 Herbert Samuel (sea strip) Tel Aviv, (03) 944-2837, Sunday-Thursday 12 p.m. until the last customer. Friday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (depending on when Shabbat starts). Shabbat – only for dinner. Average price per person, without wine, NIS 60-120.


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