A friend who continues to work in the service industry, used to work at Toto. He said that, in comparison to his other jobs, this place was his least favorite. What is to be said of this point is, my friend is way too casual for Toto. This is a place that is as much high-end dining as it is business. It's chef, Yaron Shalev, is just 27 years old, incredibly ambitious and, well, his food is good. Real good. For the most part.
On a recent visit my dining partner and I thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor seating area. Perhaps less of an option now that winter has arrived.
No matter, the indoor seating area is too exposed to the odd location of just near the Ichilov Hospital. Though this decidedly urban setting does well as first-world, uber-urban center reminiscent. The music pumping through proved just as odd. Not fitting the ambiance at all, it was like out of a scene from Lost in Translation, half lounge act and half Christmas covers with numerous electronica interludes. No joke.
But really it's about the food and drink.
We started with a glass of the 2008 Vitkin Reisling (NIS 40) which, "always smells better than it tastes," she said. I had the Flam Sauvignon Blan/Chardonnay (NIS 35), which, once left to breath, opened up with a nice bouquet and a flavor to suit. I also had a martini cocktail (NIS 60), off the drinks menu. I asked for olives and I got them, which is about the best thing you can say of a martini in this country.
We started with the Catalonian gazpacho (NIS 68), a half cold/half warm rendition, which was both tasty and spicy, an all-too-unique combination when dining. Then we moved onto the Mediterranean anchovies with yogurt, lentils and green leaves and yellow and red tomatoes (NIS 58). The sauce was deep and full of character but I thought the fish too salty.
Pleased with our first round we welcome the second, for which we chose the spicy black pasta from the sea (NIS 95). Chock full of seafood and seasoned with chilli oil, garlic, parsley and white wine we couldn't have been more delighted with our selection. We also had the beef fillet with potato pie, spicy mustard and red wine (NIS 158). The meat was very nice but not exceptional for the price. The potato pie, the idea of which intrigued me most, was simply a slice of gratin. Should have expected but nice to be caught off guard and very tasty. The veggie medley was sufficient but mundane and the mustard seemed out of place, though did suit the meat.
Dessert was hit and miss. The purple fig soup with lime sorbet and a vanilla eclair (NIS 32) was the most disappointing dish of the evening. The strong winter flavor seemed mismatched for this cold soup on a warm night. And the lime sorbet was way too sweet.
But the cubed pineapple with yogurt ice cream and a coconut twill with mango sauce, cubed mango and raisins, which we took off the specials menu, was spectacular. We accompanied this final course with a round of grappas and finished with two short espressos. The latter were served with sweet and tasty pistachio macaroon.
And, though my dining partner is now gone, it was a lovely evening that made for a lovely memory, which, I'm pretty sure, is what it's all about. So I've got that going for me.
Toto, 4 Rehov Berkovitch, (03) 693-5151. Sun. - Sat. from 12:30 p.m. till midnight. Not kosher.