Chef Tamar Cohen-Tzedek’s Cucina.
(photo credit: HILA PELER)
A while ago, chef Tamar Cohen-Tzedek’s popular Italian restaurant Cucina Tamar became simply Cucina. Then last month, the Tel Aviv trattoria transitioned into Hess 4.
The reason for the latest name change is an expansion of the restaurant’s hours. In recent years, Cucina had been open only for lunch. But, as Cohen- Tzedek puts it, “I missed the evening service.”
So she found a way to ease back into the routine: Hess 4 is now open for dinner two evenings a week – Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“After all,” Cohen-Tzedek says, “I’m a mother as well.”
The venue is very small, with six tables inside, seating just 14, and another three on the sidewalk, a few steps away from the corner of Allenby Street. The atmosphere is cozy but not exactly intimate, as the tables are a bit close together. And because the food is so good, the place is almost always full.
The informality extends to the menu as well. The menu is handwritten for each meal on yellow lined paper. If you want a menu in English, it is advisable to request one beforehand when making your reservation, so the wait staff can translate it. Otherwise, our waitress spoke perfect English.
No written wine list exists. The wait staff will explain the house’s two reds and two whites (NIS 25/35 per glass), which were clearly curated with care. They will even pour you a taste before you order.
The restaurant offers no specialty cocktails, but they will mix a classic cocktail upon request from the limited bar.
The food menu had three sections: Appetizers (nine items); Main Courses (eight dishes); and Desserts (four choices). The appetizers included salads, one soup, and small plates of pasta, while the main courses featured meat and fish, plus one vegetarian pasta dish.
We started our meal with the budino parmigiano (NIS 42), which is as close to a flagship dish as the restaurant has. The savory, creamy pudding topped with succulent mushrooms melted in the mouth and was gone all too quickly.
Next was a modest serving of gnocchi (NIS 68), intriguingly made with semolina instead of the usual potato. The topping of shaved fresh truffle, as well as Parmesan tuiles, really elevated these feathery light pillows of pasta to a sublime level of flavor.
Although the salad selection was tempting, the rainy weather tipped the scales in favor of the soup of the day – a crab bisque (NIS 72) made with pumpkin instead of heavy cream. Chock full of flakes of sweet crab meat, the tasty soup hit the spot not only temperature-wise but also by virtue of the pleasant tingle of heat it left on the tongue.
Bread does is not listed on the menu, but when we noticed some on a nearby table, we were told that it could be requested. The house bread (NIS 18) comprised three different types: a dark whole grain, a white whole grain and a baguette from the nearby Moulin bakery. Served with soft European butter, this was a great accompaniment to the soup.
As a main course, we chose the veal scallopine (NIS 110), a dish that is all too rare in Israel. This Italian classic really showed off Cohen-Tzedek’s experience, gained from working for years in restaurants in Emilia Romagna, northern Italy’s gastronomic heartland. The rich lemony sauce deftly enhanced the generous portion of delicate, thinly sliced meat without overpowering it. The accompanying mashed potatoes, flavorful in their own right, sopped up the sauce nicely.
Our pasta selection was the pappardelle verde (NIS 66) – homemade ribbons of flat pasta with green herbs baked into the dough. The hearty, filling pasta came in a deliciously zesty sauce of olive oil, peppers and olives.
Naturally, one of the desserts was tiramisu (NIS 42). This version – which had more cake than many often found in Tel Aviv – represented a nice balance of mascarpone, espresso and cocoa flavors.
The pears in wine and chocolate (NIS 42), meanwhile, was unique: two different kinds of pears poached in wine spiced with cinnamon and clove, along with streaks of chocolate ganache. The al dente fruit in exotic spices was a memorable finish to a meal that certainly calls for a return visit to the homey trattoria.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
4 Hess St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 555-1038