By now, most tourists and locals are aware of the many boutique hotels that have sprung up in Tel Aviv recently.
What most people may not know, however, is that some of these hotels have excellent restaurants.
The restaurant in the Rothschild Hotel is a good example. Opened last year, the hotel pays homage to the Zionist vision of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and this can be seen through paintings in the rooms that portray many of his famous projects, as well as a number of other touches throughout the hotel.
The Zionist vision of the hotel also extends to the restaurant, which offers “Zionist cuisine with a French accent.” Specializing in fish, seafood and vegetarian dishes, the restaurant uses fresh local ingredients.
For chef Tzvi Avisar, the restaurant at the Rothschild Hotel is the first that he has been in charge of in Israel. He studied at the Hofmann cooking school in Barcelona, where he graduated with honors, and later worked at Michelin-star restaurants in Barcelona, such as Lasarte and Drolma.
Situated in the hotel’s lobby area, the restaurant is small, with space for 40 diners at a time. It has a very modern yet comfortable atmosphere, with heavy black leather chairs taking up a lot of the space around the few tables.
My dining partner and I went at lunchtime to take advantage of the lunch deal on offer. For NIS 69, diners receive an appetizer and a main dish, which is great value considering that many of the main dishes are priced at about NIS 90 on the evening menu. On the weekends, the same lunch deal costs NIS 99, which is still good value because the food is of a very high standard.
The menu is unique in that it doesn’t feature any chicken or meat but focuses mainly on fish and seafood and a few vegetarian dishes. Although my dining companion doesn’t like fish, this didn't prove to be a problem, as both of us found options on the menu that suited us.
Our friendly waitress was patient enough to stand by while we deliberated about what to order.
For starters, I opted for the coquilles St. Jacques (for an extra NIS 10), which consisted of seared scallops, saffron foam and spinach topped with roasted almonds.
Visually impressive, the dish oozed flavor, and the contrasting textures of the soft scallops with the foam worked very well together.
My companion ordered baked colored beets with roasted nuts, Roquefort cheese and Nabali olive oil from Moshav Sde Uziya, which was bursting with flavor.
For the main course I had grilled sea bass fillets with ratatouille and a handful of whole wheat.
Sometimes when ordering a main course as part of a lunch deal, the portions are somewhat smaller.
This was not the case here. If anything, the portion was large even by regular evening menu standards. Consisting of two large sea bass fillets and a mound of vegetables and whole wheat, the dish was too big for me to finish, even though I tried my hardest.
Not being a big fan of fish, the options were rather limited for my companion. However, he was more than happy with his open whole buckwheat crepe filled with wild mushrooms, spinach and Kashkaval cheese, topped with mint yogurt mousse. Again, presentation was a key factor in this dish, which looked somewhat like a volcano with white foam spilling out of it.
This was also a big portion, but my companion had no problem finishing it off, as it was bursting with flavor.
Although we were very full after two huge courses, the dessert menu sounded too tempting not to sample from it. As part of the lunchtime deal, all desserts are NIS 25 instead of the NIS 35 charged on the evening menu.
My crème brûlée topped with figs dipped in brandy and cassis sorbet hit the right spot, while my companion’s berry tartlet with lemon pastry cream and vanilla ice cream was rather rich but very tasty.
The relatively limited menu may put some people off from trying the restaurant at the Rothschild Hotel. However, having such a limited menu means that the chef and his team can focus on the dishes that they do offer, and they do that well. The result is very well-presented food, which is just as good as it looks, if not better.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
96 Rothschild Blvd., Tel Aviv
Open daily, 7 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. http://www.rothschild-.il/#Restaurant