Brunch newcomers

Seatara in north Tel Aviv and Okinawa in Levontin launch weekend brunches.

By BUZZY GORDON
June 27, 2019 22:04
4 minute read.
Brunch newcomers

Seatara. (photo credit: JONATHAN BEN HAIM)

 
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The new brunch at Seatara, an upscale restaurant located in the Sea and Sun complex overlooking the Mediterranean, is apparently seasonal: it started just this summer, and is scheduled to end sometime in the fall.

This brunch observes traditional breakfast hours: 08.30-12.00, Fridays and Saturdays. It is also strictly an a la carte affair: the menu lists two set breakfasts (NIS 72-92), and 11 brunch dishes (NIS 52-90).

There are no specific morning cocktails, but the full bar serves five specialty cocktails (NIS 58-62) and three champagne spritzers (NIS 74). We enjoyed two fruity drinks: the slightly sweet Pink Pineapple, and the even more alcoholic Spicy Passion.

Seatara offers a couple of classic brunch dishes – steak and eggs and eggs Benedict – with interesting twists. The former, with the unusual name Cowboy Steak, was a thin, boneless rib eye steak topped with caramelized onions and two eggs sunny side up. What was different was the side dish: three potato pancakes that were light, fluffy and ideal complements to the main event.

The seafood Benedict, meanwhile, was just right in every respect – from the thick, chewy toast to the plump, meaty shrimp and the perfectly poached eggs, all drenched in a creamy Hollandaise sauce that enhanced the components of the dish without overwhelming them.

We chose yet another main brunch dish for our dessert: a stack of three pancakes, layered with lamb bacon and drizzled with melted butter and maple syrup. The ersatz bacon could have been crispier, but altogether the juxtaposition of salty and sweet added up to a satisfactory finale.

Okinawa (Credit: AFIK GABBAY)

Brunch of the Rising Sun

Okinawa is one of several Asian restaurants in Tel Aviv now serving brunch. Indeed, it was one of the first of the bunch, which as a group came a bit late to the brunch trend. It serves brunch Fridays and Saturdays during hours that definitely set it apart from breakfast: 11.00-15.30.

While Okinawa has an extensive English-language menu, we were disappointed to learn it does not extend to brunch. Fortunately, the friendly and knowledgeable hostess Ruth does an admirable job of explaining.

Okinawa’s fixed-price brunch (NIS 95) comprises an array of six Asian appetizers, plus a choice of one seven main courses. The main courses include both authentic Japanese dishes and classic Western brunch dishes with Asian twists.

There are three specialty “morning cocktails” (NIS 25), two of them based on sake. We ordered the Blood Orange – sake, pineapple syrup, orange juice and Cointreau blood orange liqueur – and the Lychee Martini – lychee liqueur with triple sec and lime. The former, served on the rocks and garnished with a generous sprig of mint, was fruity and refreshing, while the latter, served neat and garnished with a plump lychee, was strong and very sweet.

Naturally, the alcohol menu lists many brands of sake, as well as beer, wine and cold and hot teas. The only coffee available is espresso.

It did not take long for the appetizers to appear: wakame seaweed salad with mushrooms and cucumber; vegetable egg rolls; grilled avocado on tofu-beet cream; salmon sashimi marinated in Japanese citrus, and served on a bed of vermicelli noodles; panko-coated tofu cubes with ponzu sauce; and assorted pickled vegetables: carrots, kohlrabi and cabbage.

All the starters were quite good – and rather filling – but we particularly enjoyed the extremely fresh raw fish, and the warm avocado with the outstanding pink cream of tofu and beets. Moreover, while both the egg rolls and breaded tofu cubes were fried, they were crisp and not oily.

Our first main course was the Okonomiyaki, described on the menu as a stuffed crepe; in actuality, it was a huge, thick, mushy pancake, containing barely discernible bits of cabbage and scallion. Its saving grace, however, was the generous topping of excellent smoked goose breast.

The entire affair was drenched in crisscrossing drizzles of spicy mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce, a combination that threatened to overwhelm the starchy dish until we scraped a good bit of it off.

The Japanese Minute Steak, meanwhile, was thin slices of sirloin brushed with seasoned soy sauce and buried under sunny side-up eggs. The soy sauce was surprisingly delicate, enhancing rather than overpowering the flavorful meat.

The bilingual dessert menu lists five desserts (NIS 38-44), two of which are vegan, including one of the two chocolate-centric desserts. Nonetheless, we selected the mochi ice cream – which at Okinawa can perhaps best be described as ice cream dumplings: airily light ice cream balls in four different flavors, wrapped in thin, chewy skins of rice dough. Mochi ice cream is popular in Japan, and the version here is quite pleasant.

Finally, the Tropical Tapioca was unlike any other tapioca dessert we have had in Israel. The small tapioca beads, which had been cooked in green tea, were mixed with coconut cream to the consistency of rice pudding, to which was added fresh seasonal fruit, water chestnuts and almonds. The result was a delicious interplay of flavors and textures seldom found in a dessert.
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.

Seatara.
Not kosher.
Sea and Sun, 8 Rosenblum Herzl St., Tel Aviv Tel. (03) 699-6633

Okinawa.
Not kosher.
Levontin St 11, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 510-1099

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