Bindella Osteria and Bar.
(photo credit: PR)
Those of us who mourned the loss of Mul Yam have been wondering whether chef Yoram Nitzan was going to open a new restaurant or take his talents to an established one. The answer is in: He is now helming the kitchen at Bindella Osteria and Bar – and the transition is benefiting not only both sides but also the restaurant-going public in general.
The Tel Aviv outpost of the prominent Swiss restaurant chain boasts a handsomely elegant interior behind a most unassuming entrance. All the trappings of an upscale restaurant are here: leather-bound menus (Hebrew and English), the staff’s excellent English and impeccable service. After every course, our table was quickly cleared and cleaned by the nearest server, and twice during the meal we were offered wet naps from wrappers that had been torn open for us.
Breadsticks planted in salt appeared on our table to snack on while we perused the menu. The skinny, salty sticks are addictive and were gone by the time our drinks arrived: two of Bindella’s five specialty cocktails mixed at the well-stocked bar.
The Pineapple Puttanesca (NIS 46) blended spiced rum, pineapple, chili, mint and basil, poured over crushed ice. Despite the slightly ominous presence of slices of fiery red chili pepper as a garnish, the refreshing drink had only a faint tingle of heat – just enough to cut the sweetness of the pineapple.
The Mafioso Rosso (NIS 49) – Campari, gin, pomegranate liqueur and blood orange – packed a bit more of a punch; fortunately, however, the alcohol did not overpower the drink’s fruitiness.
Chef Nitzan agreed to prepare a tasting menu, so we did not have to worry about choosing from the extremely comprehensive menu; all we had to do was sit back and relax in anticipation.
Our appetizer was vitello tonnato (NIS 58) – carpaccio-thin slices of veal served with dollops of tuna and caper aioli, accompanied by a side of salanova leaves dotted with a balsamic vinaigrette. Not mentioned on the menu were toast points topped with gherkin or crispy fried onions, all adding to the wonderful interplay of flavors of this inventive dish. You won’t find vitello tonnato in too many restaurants in Israel. I’ve encountered it only once before, and this version ranked at the top.
Our soup of the day was root vegetable with mushroom duxelles and herb oil (NIS 44). The creamy bowl of white root vegetables with the finely chopped and subtly seasoned mushrooms was pure ambrosia.
We ate the soup with the house focaccia (NIS 18), sprinkled with Atlantic salt and thyme and baked with an olive oil glaze – another treat that is a threat to fill you up prematurely.
Our pasta course was the fourcheese ravioli with shrimp and fresh tomato in crab stock and brown butter (NIS 118). The large fresh shrimp were very good, but it was the ravioli that stole the show. I would advise vegetarians, or those who eschew seafood, to check whether there is a version of this dish that they can enjoy.
Another nice touch was that extra Parmesan cheese was grated for us at the table, although the ravioli did not need any.
We tried one fish and one meat dish as main courses. The fresh fish was Sicilian branzino – Mediterranean sea bass – atop a salsa of spinach with olive oil, capers and black olives (NIS 148). The steak-like fleshy white meat was moist and flavorful, and remained that way by the rich vegetable salsa underneath, as well as the juices from julienned sautéed zucchini on top.
The tagliata di manzo was medallions of sirloin steak marinated in balsamic and garlic confit and encrusted in black pepper (NIS 129), grilled to a perfect medium-rare. The accompanying roasted vegetables did little to enhance this dish, which is sure to please any carnivore.
As befits a restaurant of this caliber, Bindella has a dedicated sommelier to guide patrons through the extensive wine list, curated with wines primarily from Israel and Italy. There is a limited selection available by the glass, fortunately including a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from the Bindella chain’s house winery in Tuscany (NIS 41) and a very pleasant rosé from Shomron (NIS 50), both ideal for the hot summer weather.
The desserts chosen for us were the apricot panna cotta (NIS 42) and the exotic-sounding Crimson Bora Bora (NIS 45). The vanillaapricot cream pudding on shards of chocolate crunch with whole hazelnuts and a drizzle of caramel was an inspired combination.
There was even more going on in the latter dessert: a mound of cherry-filled meringue crowned a piece of limoncello almond cake atop a verbena cream, all alongside a ruby-red granita of raspberry and strawberry studded with white chocolate tuilles. The berry ice was like a bomb that exploded into cool fruit flavor, while the dessert as a whole met the ideal definition of a satisfying light and sweet last course.
Bindella is fine dining, with prices to match, so it is not for every day.
But it deserves to be on one’s splurge list.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Bindella Osteria and Bar
27 Montefiore St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 650-0071