Fleeing the bitterly cold Jerusalem weather last Wednesday, Tel Aviv's Neve Tzedek (oasis of justice) neighborhood seemed a good place to spend the evening. In this first Tel Aviv neighborhood, many turn-of-the-century houses still grace the quaint streets. Although the area is undergoing a great deal of renovation, it retains its charm, and many coffee shops and restaurants have cropped up.
One of these, the NG meat restaurant, opened three years ago in a little alley, using a tastefully renovated old house given character by its painted floors, old chandeliers and beige walls.
Upon entering, one is immediately struck by the warm, welcoming atmosphere. The restaurant is divided into two parts, with a large wooden U-shaped bar linking the two. The smoking area is at the entrance and at one side of the bar.
We went through to the main dining area, where seating is at wooden tables and at high tables with bar stools for couples along the walls. A charming waitress seated us and handed us menus (available in English), which we perused while sipping margueritas. The drinks were good but served in tumblers instead of the proper marguerita glasses, and had a little too much lemon.
The food menu is minimal, with only five choices of hors d'oeuvres. We tried the veal liver pate with truffle, walnuts and eggplant confiture (NIS 52), which was good, but I prefer the taste of chicken or goose liver. The topping and confiture, however, were really good and the eggplant confiture not too sweet. Walnut bread was served with this dish.
The sliced roast pork with beet salad and apple on caper sauce (NIS 45), which was the second starter we ordered, was very good, although the meat was a little dry. The beet salad and caper sauce offset the dryness and were excellent, though I think the dish would be tastier with beef. The other meat starter is carpaccio flowers (NIS 44).
The remaining two dishes are vegetarian: NG crunch (mixed green salad, parmesan cheese, a sweet potato crunch topping and vinaigrette dressing (NIS 38), big enough for two), and an eggplant salsa (grilled eggplant with tomato salsa and goat cheese with coriander and mint leaf sauce (NIS 35)).
The drink menu is extensive, listing not only Israeli boutique wines and Italian, French, Spanish and Australian products, but also blended, malt, Irish whiskies and bourbon. A connaisseurs paradise. I particularly liked the notation at the end of the menu, which states: For cognac and cigar menu, ask the waiter. This also applies to the dessert menu.
Now to the reason we chose NG: its legendary porterhouse steak. The porterhouse is similar to the T-bone, as it has sirloin on one side of the bone and filet on the other. The difference is that the porterhouse has a larger section of filet, which makes it more tender. The steak gets its name from 18th-centry English pubs, where it was served with porter beer (stout). This meat, however, comes from our own Golan Heights. The steaks come in 1.2 kg, 1.4 kg, and a decadent 2 kg size. There was only the 1.2 kg (NIS 260) or the 2 kg (NIS 420) versions available, so we opted for the 1.2 kg.
There are also entrecote and filet steaks, spare ribs, lamb chops and Porcimon risotto with Portobello mushrooms and truffle with cream sauce. These entrees range in price from NIS 75 to 115 for the lamb chops. All main courses come with mashed potatoes and sweet potato cream, mangold leaves and Chinese string beans sauteed in garlic and olive oil.
We were told that the steaks would be served on cast iron dishes to keep the meat warm, and that they would be cooked medium-rare. I don't normally enjoy meat served this way, as it carries on cooking, but I must admit that the quantity at NG justifies it. Because the filet was rare on leaving the kitchen, it was a perfect medium-rare at degustation time. All was delicious, the meat tender and tasty, with the side dishes - especially the mangold concoction - providing excellent accompaniment.
This is an eatery I will be sure to visit again. The place was packed when we left, the smoking section alive with young couples eating, drinking, talking and having a good time - many of them at the bar. The main dining area had filled up to capacity with businessmen and groups of friends out for a good meal at this paradise for meat lovers.
NG, Rehov Ahad Ha'am 6, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, (03) 516-7888.
Not kosher; open evenings from 6 p.m. - seven days a week. It is also open for business lunch on Tuesday's from noon to 5 p.m.