(photo credit: Courtesy)
About 10 years ago, a colleague and friend of mine, who was then the food critic
of a major daily newspaper, wrote a very unflattering review about a restaurant
she had dinner in. At the bottom, in a box entitled “saved the day” she
mentioned how the fish soup, cooked by Eyal Lavi at Pastis, had restored her
faith in the local restaurants. “It was a rainy weekend,” recalls Lavi, “and
there were lines of people waiting at the restaurant. I think I cooked more fish
soup that day than I do in a month.” The restaurant that got the bad review had
disappeared but Lavi, who moved from Pastis to his threeyear- old Rokah 73,
still makes his fabulous fish soup.
It happened to be one of the few
really cold nights of this winter when we got to Rokah 73, and the aroma of the
famous fish soup greeted us as we walked in.
Eyal Lavi is one of the best
chefs in Israel, yet he is very modest and lacks the mannerisms others, less
knowledgeable,\, chefs have.
The occasion for our visit was the new menu
he created for the third anniversary of his restaurant. He waited for winter to
launch a special lobster menu. “The lobsters are flown in from Maine and arrive
fresh,” says Lavi, “and this menu is my gift to myself for the restaurant’s
But we had soup on our minds and just had to start with the
Mediterranean fish soup with Pastis, tomatoes and saffron (NIS 47), which was as
good as we remembered from Pastis. To go with it we accepted the chef’s
recommendation and ordered a bottle of white Israeli Journey from the Vitkin
winery, which was fruity enough to be just perfect with the soup and the
following seafood dishes.
We also got a taste of a few starters: a
souffle of lobster and Parmesan with grilled vegetables (NIS 48); a wild fish
ceviche with tomato, chili and cilantro (NIS 58); and a taste of the crispy
calamari (NIS 54).
We were getting a little full, but lobster was the
main event, so we ordered a couple of lobster specials, which were so delicious
and perfectly cooked, that as full as we were, we couldn’t stop dipping the
bread into the sauce.
We noticed some other fish dishes we will want to
taste on another occasion, such as the sea bream filet baked in yogurt (NIS 98);
and filet of drum fish stuffed with roasted eggplant, feta and basil in a tomato
confit sauce (NIS 98). All main dishes are served with a choice of baked or
pureed potatoes, salad or cooked vegetables.
There are a few good meat
dishes as well, but this is a haven for seafood lovers.
We had one
dessert, the Mascarpone cheese with kadaif pastry, which was not too sweet and a
nice mixture of local and European ingredients and cooking methods, as are most
of the dishes in this bistro, making Rokah 73 a perfect place to bring guests
Chatting away with Lavi, who is a sweet, charming, and very
knowledgeable man, we didn’t realize that we were the last guests and the staff
were aching for us to leave, so we parted sadly, vowing to come back
soon.The writer was a guest of the restaurant Rokah 73, Tel Aviv,