Chef Rima Olvera’s philosophy is apparent in everything you see and taste in her Tel Aviv restaurant Oasis. There is a cohesiveness in the décor and the food that is rare and very welcome.
Oozing with Zen-like feeling, the décor reflects a clear vision of simplicity and quality which are apparent in every detail, such as the custom-made ceramic dishes by artist Thomas Nieder.
The same philosophy is apparent in the cuisine – fresh, clean and original, with attention to every detail. Nothing here is left to chance.
We were seated in the area next to the open kitchen, where the sorceress was performing her magic. Watching the chef at work in her kitchen, I observed how she inspected every little thing that went on the plates.
She discarded leaves I could see nothing wrong with, and she deftly dotted each plate with minute dabs of sauce, tiny salad leaves, edible flowers and garnishes.
With the motto “Fasten your seat belts and choose your destination…” the menu features dishes that are inspired by various cities and cultures.
Olvera is not one to let trends influence what she does. Unlike most local chefs, hers are original dishes that do not resemble anything you will find elsewhere.
Olvera’s style can be summed up in one word: Fresh. Born in northern California, she is imbued with the Japanese no fluff culture and deep respect for ingredients. Her food is sometimes experimental. The flavors may seem strange at first, even wild at times, but always original and surprising. The menu at Oasis is eclectic, with the names of the dishes hinting at the inspiration, such as Kyoto (seared scallops), Tokyo (fresh shrimps), Paris (roasted duck breast) or Palermo (gnocchi with baby octopus).
We began with two of Oasis’s classics. I chose the salad of raw zucchini “a la Rome” – fresh julienned zucchini with white truffle oil, lemon and Pecorino cheese. And I have to agree with the menu – it was a simple yet wonderful way to start a meal (NIS 48).
My dining companion took a different approach, selecting one of his all-time favorites, steak tartare (NIS 68). Here the dish was called La Vie en Rose, paying tribute to the French origin of the dish and adding more French tradition with drops of Hennesy VSOP Cognac. But that’s where the French influence ended.
Unlike the traditional dish, the Oasis steak tartare looks east to Japan, with added pickled Sakura cherry blossoms and pink Umebushi plum that garnish the plate. Totally in line with Olvera’s cuisine, the dish was fresh and meticulous.
I love Vietnamese cuisine, so for the main course I chose the dish called Vietnam (Han). It is described as “Crispy skin sea bream fillets with haute-cuisine de Vietnam sauce made of shallots, lemongrass and black pepper caramel, served on a salad of glass noodles, plums, mint, coriander, basil and fresh lime” (NIS 122).
Sounds complicated? Well, despite the rather large number of ingredients, the result was simply entrancing – a whirlwind of flavors that were balanced perfectly, not overpowering but still interesting.
My partner chose the Tokyo (QXO) dish of roasted shrimp, served with Japanese Macha green tea risotto, fried ginger, bok choy and yuzu mascarpone (NIS 120). Again, a marriage between Italian and Japanese cuisine is not something one would expect to succeed, but it did.
The star was the risotto, which was beyond perfection. Alas the shrimps were a minor disappointment, being less than perfect in texture. But the risotto was amazing, with a slight bitterness from the green tea that transported the otherwise heavy dish to a different realm.
Our palates satisfied, we were afraid to ruin the experience with sugar and considered forgoing dessert. But our very attentive waiter said we simply couldn’t, so we let him make suggestions. Although the BMV (70% Valrhona chocolate mousse with Amarena cherries in Cognac) sounded ideal, I chose the fresh mango “carpaccio,” lightly seared and seasoned with Szechuan pepper and kaffir lime ice cream (NIS 42). My partner couldn’t resist ordering Rima’s Kiss, which is the chef’s take on Italian tiramisu, made with white chocolate, passion fruit, mascarpone and Jamaican rum (NIS 46). Both desserts were light and not too sweet.
The wine list at Oasis is tight and reflects Olvera’s personal taste. Each is one of her favorites. Some are local, while most are French or Italian. We let our waiter suggest wine by the glass for each dish. We weren’t disappointed.
For New Year’s Eve dinner, Olvera and her staff are offering a special a la carte menu, accompanied by champagne by the glass, as well as special cocktails. On the menu there are delicacies such as Oysters Pearl Blanch with Bloody Mary granita; fresh langoustine; beef fillet with Cognac butter and potato gratin, herbs and black truffle oil; and sea fish tartare.
“When they eat my food, I want the diners to experience the same passion for life that I experience when I create it,” says Olvera.
We did, and we will most certainly go back for more.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
17 Montefiore Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 620-6022 ,
Open daily 7 p.m. to midnight