(photo credit: Courtesy)
Seatara Bistro Chef at the Sun and Sea complex in Tel Aviv is off the beaten track, easily accessible with lots of parking, the perfect place for a relaxed breakfast, leisurely lunch or unhurried dinner.
It was rather storm and sea the evening we chose to dine there. The rain was streaming down the window panes, and we could observe the waves pounding on the beach below. All was quiet and serene inside.
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A bistro by definition is a caf serving moderate-priced meals in an unpretentious setting. Seatara could be classified by some as unpretentious, but it's better described as understated elegance.
Facing the entrance is an L-shaped bar upon upon which stands a beautiful floral decoration reaching almost to the high ceiling. There are two dining areas, each decorated in shades of beige with very simple soft wall lighting. Framed photographs, normally hung on walls, stand overlapping on a shelf.
The menu, in Hebrew and English, is quite extensive and, in true bistro style, there are also the specials of the day. Perusing the menu, I came across a rather unusual dish: seared foie gras atop a brioche filled with apples and cinnamon surrounded by a chocolate mousse triology. I really didn't know if it was something I would enjoy. At that moment, Yoni, the restaurant's manager passed our table and I called him over to inquire about this dish.
"I know it sounds a little offbeat," he said. "When Yaron, the chef, told me he wanted to add it to the menu, I told him he was crazy. Yaron insisted. I trusted him, and now it is one of our bestsellers."
Intrigued, I decided to go for it. When it arrived, I looked at the plate in admiration at its beautiful presentation. The liver was seared to perfection while pink and almost raw inside. The mixture of tastes and textures of the meat, apple and chocolate was absolute bliss.
As a main course I decided to have something light and ordered the Levrach fish. The fish is first gently fried then placed in the tabun oven. The result was a perfectly cooked, easy to filet, flaky delicate fish. Because this particular fish has such a distinct flavor, however, it was spoiled by the accompanying tomato sauce which was, to my mind superfluous. My dining partner had calamari as an hors d'oeuvre, which was fresh and crispy. The main course he ordered was entrecote steak with a mustard sauce and french fries.
By the time the main course was served I was feeling rather mellow, as we had started the evening with excellent margueritas followed by a glass of Chateau Golan red wine. I was enjoying the surroundings, sipping the wine, watching the storm and paying attention to the meals being served to other patrons. Not only is chef Yaron Vaknin an excellent and innovative chef, he is an artist. Every plate leaving the kitchen was a work of art, from a simple salad right through to the desserts. I was jolted out of my reverie, however, by a red plastic bottle of Heinz ketchup and a yellow plastic bottle of mustard placed on our table as accompaniments to the french fries. So totally out of place. Not needing them, we quickly had them removed. At the end of the meal I asked Yoni why ketchup and mustard were served that way. He laughed. "That's what works," he said. "We first served them in fancy glass bottles, but patrons were banging the bottoms to get the sauce out. We tried in bowls but no one liked that presentation, so until we come up with a different solution, this is how our patrons like their sauces served."
Being too full to taste the desserts, I just admired them from afar. The most popular seemed to be the strawberry pavlova. Next time .....
Prices are moderate to expensive, depending on your order. Salads range from NIS 35 to NIS 49, first courses range from NIS 44 to the liver at NIS 79. The hamburger is NIS 58. Pasta dishes range from NIS 69 to NIS 82 for the seafood pasta. Main courses are from NIS 58 to NIS 130. Desserts are around NIS 35.
There are two private rooms - one that seats 12 and another, with its own bar, that can seat 40. Not kosher. Business lunch available. Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to midnight.
Seatara Bistro Chef, Herzl Rosenblum Street 8, Sea and Sun, Tel Aviv. Tel: (03) 699-6633