(photo credit: courtesy)
This is where you want to be at sunset – eating fish grilled with a healthy squeeze of lemon, garnished with sprigs of rosemary, overlooking the rolling waves of a sleepy beach town marina on the Mediterranean Sea.
You can still savor the creaminess of the red pepper sauce that was laid beneath a portobello mushroom adorned with a sharp feta cheese and fresh chives, only one of the many appetizers that come included with your cooked seafood.
The interior of Tayo Chef Dagim is an elegant take on the beach lounge restaurant. Long wooden tables dressed in white tablecloths jut out from wall-to-wall windows. The light is kept low, which allows the gentle sunset to imbue the space with a serene orange hue.
This restaurant, located in one of Bat Yam’s southernmost spots, Marina Beach, is not for the sunburnt beach bum but rather a place for a fine dining experience, perfect for a family celebration. The owners of the place make a noble attempt to bring chic to an otherwise uncouth location, a beach swarming with teenagers on BMX bikes and playing volleyball into the hot late hours of an Israeli summer.
I was at Tayo with my girlfriend, a South African chef, who is the perfect adviser on matters of cuisine.
We started to wine and dine with a 2009 Pfaffenheim Gewürztraminer from the Alsace region, which delivered a delicate flavor, surprising this wine drinker more familiar with the US’s more boldly flavored Gewurztraminers but still expected from a French wine. Drink it cold, as its flavor diminishes and turns juicier as it warms.
As usually occurs at Middle Eastern seafood restaurants, we were presented with a wide variety of starters consisting of a mix of vegetarian, meat and seafood mezzes.
Among the appetizers, the finest was a paté of liver resting on a thin layer of caramelized onion jam and accompanied by a crusty house bread. One bite, and our appetites were already whetted.
Another stimulating starter was the grilled whole eggplant on a thick dollop of homemade tehina sauce and a splash of a Turkish tomato sauce. It was the perfect Mediterranean combination of three flavors – smoky, rich and tangy.
At this point we leaned back and watched the kids running by outside, reveling in the warm summer air. The beach view, boasted on Tayo’s website (www.tayo.co.il), is an integral part of the dining experience.
As most seafood fans likely feel, a view of the water makes the fish taste that much better.
At the other end of the restaurant, a large and attractive bar lined with mirrors and decked out with hundreds of bottles of wine and topshelf alcohols seemed perfect for the beachgoer looking to end a sizzling day with a frosty beer or cocktail and a basket of fried calamari.
The sound of a sizzling platter brought my attention back to our table. Placed in front of us was a mammoth striped sea bass, whole, garnished with sprigs of rosemary and skewers of mushroom, onion and tomato (NIS 99). We carved ourselves healthy portions and began to devour our catch.
Fish is a personal matter for anyone who grows up on the Californian coast grilling rainbow trout or Alaskan salmon on a summer afternoon. It makes you more discerning but also more particular.
Though I wasn’t disappointed, my girlfriend and I decided that the chef should be more liberal with salting and adding citrus and should have taken the fish off the grill a few moments earlier to keep the moisture of the fish intact. These drawbacks, however, did not stop us from finishing the sea bass from head to tail.
For those seeking alternatives to a whole grilled fish, the restaurant serves a seafood medley of scallops, shrimp and mussels in a garlic cream sauce (NIS 169), as well as a fried fish plate (NIS 99) with trout and barbounia fish accompanied with a house lemon garlic sauce (which to me tasted more like chimichurri. Cilantro adversaries, beware!). Fear not whether Tayo can satisfy even the most ravenous patron, as the generous spread of appetizers is included with the selected entrée.
And we were indeed stuffed but, as always, ready to cap the feast with a sweet conclusion. Seeing how it was the opening weeks of summer, nothing sounded finer than the personal apple pie a la mode, with the ice cream served in a fried pastry basket (NIS 39). The whole fest was drizzled with a caramel and chocolate swirl. The combination of rich ice cream and a very sweet apple pie was overwhelming, and we couldn’t finish the pie. This was a somewhat disappointing way to finish an otherwise sumptuous and satisfying meal.
But lucky for Tayo, their location is a quick enough distraction from minor disappointments. We stepped back out into the beach air, thick and salty, a breeze blowing off the crests of shallow waves. Romanced again by Israel’s Mediterranean coastline, we walked away pleased with our experience of surf and seafood.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.Tayo Chef Dagim Not kosher Southern beach, Bat Yam (03) 656-5650