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I've discovered a new love - Friday afternoons. Well, I've known about afternoons and the sixth day of the week for some time now, but only recently learned that it is the time best spent relaxing at a great restaurant. And, when a great restaurant does what it can to welcome you, then you've got divine inspiration.
Named for the Tel Aviv promenade (which was named for the High Commissioner of Palestine), I can only describe Herbert Samuel (HS) as offering the greatest gastronomical pleasures that I've experienced in this country to date. The culinary cranium behind it all is chef Jonathan Roshfeld. At his establishment, good tastes join - for all the senses - in such a way that one is compelled to consume an entire meal with a smile plastered across one's face. Sure, it makes chewing a bit more difficult but it can be done.
HS offers an array of special deals at different times in the hopes of accommodating a wide array of diners with different budgets, from business lunch to a special light menu of a glass of wine and a nibble. Which leads us back to Friday afternoons.
On this half weekend/day, my dining partner and I donned dress and button-down shirt respectively to class ourselves up a bit. She was stunning. I appeared clean enough to make it past the doorman. Perfect, cause in true Israeli fashion, you can come as you are or dress up for a special occasion. The waitstaff is coolly clad in jeans, button down shirts, ties and aprons. We sat at a window overlooking an authentic Israeli view: beautiful beach promenade with a main thoroughfare and gas station in between. The shade lowered automatically to keep the sun from oppressing us.
Immediately we were enamored by the house breads, of which the fennel variety blew me away. The delightful doused in olive oil tulum cheese imported from Turkey was served in the stead of butter. Thank god. Breaking off chunks of this stuff gave us the impression that we were trying cheese for the first time - enough to drive Steve Urkel mad.
Dishes of particular note were the calamari, shrimp and octopus in a smoked Catalonian bean salad. An amazing mix of flavors and textures, it actually seemed to open in the manner of wine, as we slowly worked our way through the dish. The tomato salad was pure pleasure, prepared with raw and grilled love apples of varying colors - as opposed to the mundane offering of two or three reds. And, the spareribs with chimichurri were of such perfection - flavors danced on my tongue, the fat crisped between my teeth and the meat melted in my mouth.
For dessert we enjoyed a sampler plate with an array of things delicious and the unique take on strawberry cheesecake. The short espressos were impressively pulled and the cocktails were of some interest but, once we were informed that the "fresh lime juice," as it was stated on the menu was as near impossible as you'd think, we were even further pleased with the extensive and impressive wine offerings.
The most special aspect to Friday afternoons at HS is the fixed price menu. NIS 95 will treat you to an opening of four tapas (served on a square slate plate with the oddest/coolest/tastiest neon green sauce drizzled down the middle), a first course, second course and a food-induced Joker smile.
Herbert Samuel is located at 6 Koifman St. in Beit Gibor, (03) 516-6516. It is open Sun. to Wed. from 12:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and Thurs. to Sat. to 1 a.m.; not kosher. Valet parking is available as is the second floor dining space (nestled between the beachfront view and the uber-cool aquarium kitchen) for private events. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.