Assif bistro dish .
(photo credit: courtesy)
I will start at the end – I loved Assif so much I went back there a couple times
after my initial visit for this review. It’s exactly my kind of place, the sort
I would be looking for when visiting other cities around the world, and yet love
to have around the corner from my home.
At sundown, the commercial
district near Tel Aviv’s stock exchange changes into a local hangout area,
complete with bars and small restaurants. Assif, located right there, offers
visitors a menu that changes occasionally, depending on seasonal ingredients and
the chef’s own whims.
True to its name (assif means harvest in Hebrew),
the restaurant’s menu focuses on fresh, local produce, enriched with European
and Asian strokes. Assif’s owner and chef, Einav Berman, keeps up a slow-food
gastronomic ideology, (a global, grassroots movement that links the pleasure of
food with a commitment to community and the environment) while staying very
close to her Israeli origins.
Although not a large space, attention to
detail gives an illusion of comfort. Berman’s guiding hand is felt throughout
the restaurant. Modern art adorns the walls, white tablecloths and flower
bouquets give a somewhat festive atmosphere and the open kitchen allows eyes to
wonder around. Outside seating is perfect when humidity permits.
summer, Berman created a menu that offers light and tasty dishes combining
cooked and raw ingredients, centered around seasonal produce such as summer
squash, chard, lime, nectarines, cherries and more.
After enjoying the
selection of breads baked on the premises, we started with a salad of
nectarines, tomatoes and basil with mozzarella, prosciutto and basil oil (NIS
54), and pressed sea fish, with radish, hyssop, green onions, chili and avocado
on toasted potato bread (NIS 56). Both excellent, tasty and very pretty
We were interested in the eggplant tortellini with goat cheese
(NIS 52) but it was gone by the time we got to the restaurant.
the smaller dishes all looked very attractive we decided to move on to the more
serious ones. My companion chose a butcher’s cut with okra, asparagus bean, and
green bean with beef stock and fresh corn polenta (NIS 115), which was very
French in style and excellent for meat lovers.
I took what I thought was
the best dish of the whole meal - lamb chops with okra, tomatoes confit, capers,
olives and potatoes puree (NIS 135), which was rich and very well
Berman’s personal (and yes, oh so very feminine) touch can be
felt in everything. From the light-hand in seasoning and great cooking skill
that allows every ingredient to shine, to the way the menu flows from lighter
and smaller dishes to the relatively heartier ones, and is not divided into
starters and main dishes, thus making it easier for diners to simply pick their
fancy regardless of its location on the menu.
The staff members (all, so
we were told, art students), are not only courteous and English-speaking, they
are also extremely friendly. Not only was our lovely waitress fun to talk to,
she also demonstrated extensive knowledge of the entire menu, ingredients and
cooking methods, and had a surprising understanding of the wine list, including
her very own personal taste and convictions. We loved her.
The small but
sumptuous selection of light desserts is not to be overlooked. Despite our
inclination to ignore it, out waitress convinced us to try the Wild Crème
Schnitt (NIS 39), a flaky, pastry dessert filled with mascarpone cheese,
slightly sweetened. It was a very good – light, not too sweet and very
satisfying. Just the right thing to end a romantic dinner for two.The
writer was a guest of the restaurant.Assif
18 Lilenblaum St,
(Closed on Saturday)