E Zugi .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
We’ve all had that experience at a restaurant where we order something and while it might be tasty, we wished we had ordered what the person sitting opposite us ordered. If you are intimate enough with that person, you can sometimes ask to trade with them, but that's only if they are willing, of course. In the majority of cases, however, you may suffer from a serious case of “food envy.”
E- Zugi Restaurant Bar in Tel Aviv has the perfect solution to this age old dining dilemma – a sharing menu featuring a large selection of meat and fish dishes, as well as vegetarian options.
On a recent visit to the upscale kosher restaurant, my friend and I had the honor of meeting the owner, chef Eitan Mizrahi, who once served as the chef for Crowne Plaza hotels and is the official chef for the Israeli national football team. He says that instead of being hindered by kashrut, he embraces the kosher aspect of the menu and instead of using substitutes, he creates recipes that are suited accordingly. For example, instead of using margarine in place of butter in mashed potatoes, he uses olive oil.
The modern restaurant, situated in the Leonardo Boutique Hotel in Ramat Hahayal, has a glamorous and almost over-the-top design. With bold furniture and a strong dark color scheme, the atmosphere is chic and fits in well with the decor of the hotel.
After sampling some quality kosher wine, it was down to business – the food. The menu at E- Zugi is unique in that there are no defined courses, and diners are encouraged to share a number of different dishes. People can order a single dish for NIS 49, three dishes for NIS 147, five for NIS 245 and so on, up to 15 dishes for NIS 735. The size of each dish is between an appetizer and a main course. Mizrahi explains that this can be a great advantage because one can order a quality steak for the same price as a salad.
While there are no defined starters or main courses, we started the meal with five of the dishes that are considered on the lighter side. The Asian chicken salad, which came with crisp rice noodles and iceberg lettuce, served with sesame vinaigrette, is one of the flagship dishes, according to Mizrahi. I found it rather bland, but the noodles gave it some extra crunch. The green salad with radish and root vegetables, nuts and crisp sweet potato chips with raspberry vinaigrette was much tastier and worked much better as an all-round salad.
Among my favorite of the lighter courses was the fresh salmon sashimi served in olive oil with tomato seeds, Kalamata olives and Atlantic sea salt.
The salmon was of a very high standard, and the olives gave it an extra kick. Perhaps the best was the beef carpaccio seasoned with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, garnished with radishes and mini bruschetta. The Asian chicken gyoza also went down very well.
My friend and I took a little break, and Mizrahi told us about his colorful career and pride at having the opportunity to work with kosher menus.
Then it was time to tuck into the dishes that are considered more classic main dishes. Our waiter put all four dishes on the table at once, and it was hard to choose which to have first. I went for the lamb ribs in a garlic confit marinade, served on a bed of mashed potatoes. For someone who loves lamb, I was not disappointed in the slightest. The lamb was melt-in-the-mouth soft, as was the mash. The flavors all worked well together, and I was happy that there were four ribs because after eating the first one, I knew that I could move on to the other dishes and save the other three ribs until the end. Oh, the beauty of sharing meals.
Next, I had the beef filet medallions seared on the grill with crispy sweet potato cubes in a chili sesame sauce.
The potato cubes and sauce were very flavorful; however, I found the meat to be rather tough.
As fish dishes go, the grilled fresh salmon pieces in mirin and soy, served with sautéed green vegetables, were of a very high standard. The salmon was cooked beautifully, and the vegetables were full of flavor.
The yeast pastry filled with meat, herb salad and home-style tahini, which had Middle Eastern cuisine written all over it, was a feast of flavors.
By this stage we were both rather full, but that didn’t stop us from indulging in dessert. The chocolate soufflé served with hot chocolate sauce and fresh fruit was a little slice of chocolate heaven. The second dessert was just as good. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a huge Belgian waffle with strawberries, maple syrup and fruit sorbet. The waffle itself was nice and crunchy, and the coconut sorbet was one of the best I have ever tasted.
Perhaps my friend and I shared a little too much food, but it was certainly a pleasure to have the option to try so many dishes. We only sampled a small fraction of what’s on the menu, so I hope to go back some time soon to share some of the other dishes on offer.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Leonardo Boutique Hotel
17 Habarzel, Tel Aviv