Regina restaurant in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: PR)
Regina in the Tahana (the old railway station) in Tel Aviv has long been a favorite of people looking for a kosher meal in an attractive setting, so an invitation to sample the revised menu was accepted with alacrity.
The husband and wife team who own and have been running Regina for five years are Nir Shafrir and Tsippi Lev, and they are more often than not on hand to greet the diners. The welcome, both from them and the wait staff, is always warm, and the service is impeccable.
Before we sampled the food, the owners were anxious to explain the principles behind the extensive menu and the connection it has to the location at the railway station.
“Immigrants arrived here, at this spot, from all over the world,” says Shafrir. “Everyone brought their own culinary tradition with them when they first came, and we have tried to make our menu as eclectic as possible to cover all these traditions, while at the same time making it very contemporary.”
Making it kosher was also a nod to the original immigrants, most of whom would never have eaten treif in their lives. Every new immigrant received a copy of a WIZO cookbook, translated into many languages, to introduce the newcomers to that new concept – Israeli cuisine.
Shafrir, who is the nephew of celebrated writer and artist Yoram Kaniuk and bears a strong resemblance to him, showed us around the newly decorated restaurant, housed in one of the original structures of the railway station.
There are several private rooms that can host parties and events for a small, intimate gathering of 12 to 30 people, while another, larger room can accommodate up to 100 for all kinds of events, including weddings. Some of the rooms are outside, others in the more than century-old building, but all offer a romantic and rustic ambience to celebrate an event.
Several fish dishes have been added to the menu as a result of the special menu that was created for the Nine Days in the month of Av when religious people refrain from eating meat.
“They were so popular, that we decided to keep them permanently,” explains Shafrir.
And so to the meal.
My dining partner chose the chopped liver (NIS 38) as is his wont, while I plumped for the ceviche Trieste (NIS 37). I think this is a dish that displays the quality of a restaurant perfectly, as it is made from raw fish, which basically has no taste on its own. Sure enough, this was wonderful – a mound of cubed sea bream full of chopped vegetables and herbs, with a sharp citrus dressing to offset the bland fish. The accompanying salad was good too, full of capers and exotic leaves.
The liver was very rich and tasty but should have had a sprinkling of the red onions promised on the menu. It was still a good and tantalizing starter hinting at more good things to come.
For the main course, I chose sea bream in a traditional Moroccan sauce (NIS 86). The fish was wonderfully fresh and perfectly cooked, while the chunks of potato and carrot had absorbed the spicy flavor of the sauce. Less sauce and more spice would have made this dish perfect. It arrived piping hot, which is always a good thing on a winter evening.
My dining companion chose the newest dish on the menu, Wiener schnitzel made from sirloin steak (NIS 77). Sadly for him, the meat was sliced paper thin, covered in breadcrumbs and fried, which meant that for a determined carnivore, this was not the right dish. He would have been better off with the rib-eye steak (NIS 135).
However, the schnitzel was crispy and came with home-cut fries.
Desserts were apple strudel and chocolate soufflé, both NIS 36. A very generous portion of two slices of pie – chunks of tart apple wrapped in a cake-like pastry and filled with raisins and nuts – arrived at the table together with parve vanilla ice cream. This was an excellent dessert, not too sweet but with an interesting contrast of textures from the pastry and fruit.
The soufflé was also good, neither heavy nor overly sweet.
Two mint teas later and we left Regina to check out the great shops dotted around the Tahana and enjoy the lovely atmosphere of this gentrified part of old Tel Aviv, today a major tourist attraction.
Just one tip for women: Don’t wear high heels, as they have a way of sinking into those old railway tracks that cover the ground.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Regina Kosher The Tahana, Neveh Tzedek, Tel Aviv Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight; Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, 8 p.m. to midnight