Oddly enticing

The one-price-fits-all menu at E-Zugi is meant for sharing.

May 13, 2010 15:30
3 minute read.
E-Zugi Restaurant

E-Zugi Restaurant 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A gimmick is meant to attract attention or increase appeal. E-Zugi (odd-numbered, in Hebrew) is big on gimmicks, and despite the negative connotation, the restaurant offers plenty of appeal.

E-Zugi is located inside the Leonardo Boutique Hotel in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Hahayal neighborhood. It’s on a busy street, and there is no free parking. Inside, things are almost as busy. The hotel is sleek, full of mirrors and decorated with interesting items, including a large pink alligator.

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The restaurant itself is also sleek, done mostly in black. Unlike at a hushed, fancy hotel restaurant, at E-Zugi there are no carpets, the music plays at an audible volume and a romantic dinner isn’t really an option. But none of that is to say the restaurant doesn’t offer a fun dining experience. Once seated, patrons are brought long paper menus and a pencil. Each item is priced at NIS 39, excluding the various drinks (glasses of wine are NIS 33 each). Little checkboxes stand ready beside each option, and diners are instructed to mark off the dishes that they want, preferably in odd increments. We were told one dish was not enough for a meal and were urged to go with three servings per person. We ended up with eight main dishes and three desserts (11 together, still odd!).

In fact, some dishes were very small and just barely whetted the appetite. Others, though, were large enough to satisfy someone who wasn’t very hungry. Plus, there’s a delicious house bread that comes with pesto, herb aioli and garlic confit.

On the very small end of things is the sirloin carpaccio. The tender slices are thinner than tissue paper – which is very impressive. Unfortunately, with meat so thin, it’s hard to taste the meat beyond the salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. The lamb spareribs, though, in a marinade of honey and thyme, are full of meaty flavor. The appetizer-sized portion of about six ribs is messy, too.

Fans of the Moroccan fish dish known as chreime will likely adore the grouper cigars. The fish is mixed with herbs and rolled into delicate phyllo-dough tubes. The two cigars are served with very spicy tomato-pepper sauce for dipping. Yet the spiciness of the chreime sauce pales in comparison to the salmon sashimi. The three small pieces of raw fish are exceptionally fresh, but the soy vinaigrette on top is exceptionally hot.

The other fish dish we tasted was an encrusted sea bream fillet accompanied by a sweet sauce. The sea bream is delicate and tasty, but the crust is thick, crunchy and somewhat bland.

Admittedly, we went a little sirloin crazy. In addition to the aforementioned carpaccio, we also tried the seared sirloin and the pistachio-coated sirloin. Both were fantastic. The seared sirloin comes in bite-size pieces with a sweet-and-spicy sauce. The meat doesn’t exactly melt in your mouth, but it’s tender. Along with the mashed potatoes and smoked eggplant beneath, the dish would have been enough for a light meal. The pistachio-coated sirloin was also pre-cut for easy sharing. The crust was a bit sweet, and the meat was so juicy it was gone in just a few bites. We had no need for the accompanying gravy, served in a shot glass.

Our lone chicken dish was a delectable Asian salad. The fair-sized cold salad had crispy rice noodles and a sesame dressing, and my dining partner would not stop until it was gone.

Nearly every dish came with mashed potatoes or potato wedges, and I can’t help thinking that perhaps some vegetables or rice would have been a good way to vary the sides.

For dessert, we tried the hot chocolate souffle, which tasted parve, to my disappointment. We also had the cold berry fruit soup, which was served with a skewer of cream puffs. The cream puffs were great, but the soup reminded me a bit of cough syrup. The hot apples went over a bit better, with a crumbly topping and sorbet that came in a cute little jar.

From the attractive presentation to the emphasis on sharing, E-Zugi and chef Eitan Mizrahi have put a lot of effort into the overall concept. What can I say? Sometimes, gimmicks work.

E-Zugi, Leonardo Boutique Hotel, Rehov Habarzel 17, Tel Aviv. (03) 511-0075. Kosher.

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