(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sandwiched among upscale office buildings, Ichilov Hospital and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is a popular kosher combination: the Liliyot bakery and dairy restaurant and the Liliyot fine dining meat restaurant. But the behind-thescenes story is as praiseworthy as the food. The kitchen is staffed by at-risk youth who have had their share of difficulty adjusting to the framework of school or the army and are being trained as chefs, a profession that commands status and respect in modern Israel.
“Young chefs from our program have gone on to work in some of the country’s leading restaurants,” says Canadian-born Allan Barkat, founder and chairman of the social investment Dualis, a co-owner of Liliyot since 2009. “In fact, one of our trainees went on to take the place of celebrity chef Yonatan Roshfeld at Herbert Samuel.”
A social business, Barkat explains, is one that generates profits that can be reinvested to grow the company’s mission. Its philosophy can be summed up in the words of Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunis: “A charity dollar has one life; a social business dollar has many lives.”
To earn profits, a business must be successful and attract repeat customers. That is something that Liliyot has been doing, along with changing lives, since 1999. The afternoon crowd comes for the daily two-course business lunch (NIS 79).
The dinner menu is completely different, featuring gourmet dishes designed to be savored over the course of a leisurely meal.
As we perused the lunch menu, we sipped a glass of that month’s house wine, a crisp Chardonnay by Yarden (NIS 25). We were also served rustic bread from the adjoining bakery, as well as focaccia with an onion crust that had been baked on the premises. They came with a mild yet complex sun-dried tomato and eggplant spread and creamy tehina.
The two spreads together made for an interesting combination.
The starter recommended by our waiter was the mullet salad (a surcharge of NIS 8): morsels of raw fish in a bulgur salad with roasted red pepper, eggplant cream and soy pudding. The fish was exceedingly fresh, amid a wonderful interplay of flavors.
Intrigued by the description, we ordered the chopped liver eclair in a spicy orange marmalade. The “eclair” (closer to a hot dog bun) was transformed by adding the thin, slightly piquant marmalade to the rich liver. It was paired nicely with a small arugula salad.
Following the success of the first raw fish starter, we elected to try the salmon tartin as well (+ NIS 8).
Again, we were rewarded. A generous portion of salmon sashimi was piled on a brioche, with aioli, basil, lemon confit, arugula and julienned beet. A tasty and refreshing variation on the usual salmon sandwich.
The main course generated a slight difference of opinion between my dining companion and me. The English menu described the steak as rib-eye (+ NIS 35), while the Hebrew menu called it entrecôte. My friend insisted that it could not be rib-eye, as it lacked both the bone and the telltale “eye.” On the other hand, it tasted closer to the rib-eye I remember from the US than any other cut I have had in Israel.
Regardless, I enjoyed it immensely.
And the accompanying mashed potatoes tasted remarkably like they contained butter, which was, of course, impossible We also decided to try a vegetarian dish: linguine in a Jerusalem artichoke stock, with mushrooms, almonds, spinach and truffle oil. It turned out to be a very satisfying dish, which left an unexpected yet pleasant feeling of heat in the mouth. Another welcome surprise was the crunchy texture of toasted slivered almonds.
At first glance, the list of dessert options presented a difficult choice.
Fortunately, there was a solution in the form of a selection of Liliyot’s sweets for two (NIS 48): small samples of most of the desserts.
Noteworthy among them were the apple crumble with ginger, a tangy treat sweetened with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that tasted better than most parve ice creams; chocolate soup, a rich liquidy souffle that – amazingly – contained no sugar; a chocolate nougat and espresso crunch candy bar, a fortuitous combination; and a pecan tart with whiskey pecan ice cream, enhanced with a touch of caramel.
Liliyot will be open during Passover, and it has a private dining room ideal for family get-togethers.
There is good news for Jerusalemites as well. Liliyot will be opening a branch in the capital in the newly renovated Ticho House on Harav Kook Street.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
2 Dafna Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 609-1331