(photo credit: YORAM ASHEIM)
For the third consecutive year, Israel is participating in the prestigious international culinary festival, imaginatively named Round Tables. The event, sponsored by American Express, brings over some of the world’s top chefs to work together with Israeli chefs to produce outstanding one-of-a-kind meals.
The only kosher restaurant participating in the festival is Hayarkon 99, the flagship restaurant of the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel, which has the distinction of being the city’s first luxury hotel and a historical building in its own right.
The chef, Oved Alfia, will be joined by Andreu Genestra, the owner of a restaurant of the same name on the Spanish island of Mallorca, which was awarded a coveted Michelin star two years ago. Alfia visited Genestra, who is 37, and worked with him on some of the food that will be served during the Round Tables festival and explained the limitations of kashrut.
“He already knew a great deal about Jewish food,” says the 51-year-old top chef, whose parents immigrated to Israel from Syria. “I was impressed by how much he knew of Jewish history and tradition. Also, he grows all the herbs and spices for his cuisine in the restaurant garden.”
Ahead of the festival, my dining companion and I had the opportunity to sample some of the hotel’s culinary creations.
The restaurant at the Dan is small and can seat about 50 diners. Crisp snow-white linen tablecloths and napkins, shining flatware and fine china all hinted at the splendor to come.
While we munched on crusty whole grain bread and grainstudded crackers, all made in the hotel kitchen, an amuse-gueule arrived, listed as “Empanada, cauliflower cream, caramelized onions and pine nuts.” The tiny tidbit was served on a shiny flat pebble from the hotel garden. We could have eaten 10 of these, but one and a half each had to suffice.
For the first course, a large plate dotted with little mounds of chopped food was next to arrive.
One of these, described as “Tartare of tomato,” was fresh skinned tomato with black olives and quite a hot chili flavor. Another was made from mashed banana and herbs, slightly sweet and peppery.
There were also little piles of chopped raw fish, highly flavored with leek, shallot, coriander and hot chili, the classical Peruvian “tiger milk” marinade.
For the main course I chose the pink trout, baked with potato slices, pickled beetroot cubes and pickled onion (NIS 109). It was served with a creamy white horseradish sauce which blended well with the acidic vegetables.
My companion chose the skewered lamb, which was very tender with a crispy surface and soft chewy meat inside (NIS 109).
Julienned chili pepper made an unusual side dish. The accompanying salad, flavored with citrus vinaigrette and served with hazelnuts and chopped dates, was very good.
The dessert menu offered a wide choice (NIS 42 to NIS 46). On the advice of our waiter Pinhas, who has worked at the Dan for 40 years, I chose the Apple Gratin with Chantilly cream. It was a crunchy biscuit base topped with warm sweet apple slices and was excellent, although the “cream” was a poor approximation of the real thing. My companion chose the Guanaja chocolate fondant, a rich dessert that was part cake, part candy, with an orange sauce.
We ended our meal with an espresso and a pot of mint water for the insomniac of the duo.
The Round Tables festival begins on October 29 and runs until November 10. The price of a meal at the Dan Tel Aviv during the festival is NIS 239.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
99 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 520-2525