Experiential fine dining

Chef Ilan Mizrahi has been in charge and he’s imbued a spirit of adventure into the menu to sit alongside classic dishes that longtime patrons have come to expect.

August 8, 2019 12:49
3 minute read.
Experiential fine dining

Deca. (photo credit: DAVID BRINN)

It’s an unlikely location for a restaurant touted as upscale elite kosher – a dead-end off of a busy street, surrounded by auto parts stores, garages and dilapidated buildings.

But that’s south Tel Aviv for you, and that’s what helps make the charm of Deca stand out. Kosher mehadrin under the supervision of the Tel Aviv Rabbinate, the fish-focused restaurant has been around for 12 years and gone through many incarnations.

For the last two years, chef Ilan Mizrahi has been in charge and he’s imbued a spirit of adventure into the menu to sit alongside classic dishes that longtime patrons have come to expect.

During the day, expect to find a business lunch crowd of CEOs and diplomatic delegations tucked into a discreet corner or in one of the private dining areas. In the evening, with its white tablecloths and napkins, ambient music and modern interior design that retains original warehouse beams from a former existence, it becomes the perfect place for a special occasion or just an excuse to pamper yourself. It’s a mix of kashrut-keeping diners, young beautiful Tel Avivians out for a unique dining experience, and tourists being hosted by someone in the know.

“I call it experiential fine dining,” said the youthful Mizrahi, popping out of the open kitchen area at the beginning of the meal, adding that he combines fresh, locally produced ingredients from the markets of Tel Aviv with imported ingredients such as cheeses and certain fish.

Mizrahi personally selected a number of starters on the menu for us to try, including a light and refreshing Endive Salad with melon and crushed hazelnuts (NIS 56).

Items that prompt diners to become repeat offenders at Deca include the Sea Fish Tartar, a tangy combination of fresh fish bites with pear twills, fennel, labaneh and mint (NIS 65).

Equally original was a curiosity-piquing item called Jewish Salmon Ceviche, which Mizrahi called his version of gefilte fish (NIS 72).

“I had a sous chef once who claimed that gefilte fish couldn’t be tasty, so I took up the challenge,” said Mizrahi, explaining the layered rectangle of salmon seviche sitting on top of beetroot, black quinoa and horseradish pudding. While the zesty horseradish conjured up some Seder memories, the delicious dish thankfully tasted nothing like gefilte fish.

The one non-fish starter Mizrahi presented may have been the best. Handmade Pine Nut and Almond Gnocci in a cheese sauce with shallot onions, sage and honey (NIS 66) was to die for.

It was only surpassed by one of the two main course we tried – the Jumbo Gnocchi and Mushrooms (NIS 92), so light and so filling at the same time. It was just sublime.

 The main attraction at Deca, though, is fish, and the menu listed six items from the sea, some filleted and some presented whole. The Salmon Fillet cooked on the plancha with whiskey, butter and shallots and offered with caramelized carrots and carrot cream (NIS 125) was everything you could hope for – tasty and beautifully presented, but nothing out of this world.

Much care is given to the ample dessert menu, which doesn’t need to rely on parve alternatives to creamy dishes. Entries include Tiramisu, Crème Brûlée and Baked Cheese Cake (all NIS 56). We tried the Chocolate Mousse (NIS 62) which was a complex layered concoction with biscuits and three types of chocolate that filled whatever sweet cravings we had.

The prices at Deca are somewhat higher than less upscale establishments, but the quality of the food, the atmosphere and the ample free parking in the heart of Tel Aviv make it a worthwhile destination for a special night out.

Kashrut: Chief Rabbinate of Tel Aviv
10 Hata’asiya St. Tel Aviv
Sunday-Thursday: 12 noon-11 p.m.
03-562-9900 and Deca.co.il
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

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