Dinner setting (Illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Herbert Samuel is a name familiar to many Israelis, whether from history as the British high commissioner of Palestine or today as the boulevard along Tel Aviv’s boardwalk. To lovers of good food, however, the name Herbert Samuel is associated with some of the best restaurants the country has known in recent years: the original Herbert Samuel, helmed by celebrity chef Yonatan Roshfeld; the kosher Herbert Samuel, the flagship restaurant of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Herzliya Marina; and the Jerusalem Herbert Samuel, also kosher, in the downtown boutique hotel of the same name.
Alas, this venerable triumvirate of gastronomic Herbert Samuels has now dwindled to one. The Jerusalem restaurant closed within months of opening, and the Herbert Samuel in Tel Aviv fell victim to the dissolution of the partnership between Roshfeld and the Strauss Lifestyle Group.
Fortunately, the last Herbert Samuel standing still lives up to the reputation of its forebear. The current chef, Mor Cohen, came to the Ritz-Carlton together with Roshfeld to open the mehadrin kosher outpost four years ago. Ever since, the restaurant, known for its seasonal menu, has built up a loyal following among the denizens of the Herzliya Pituah hi-tech community, in addition to the well-heeled guests of the hotel.
This year, the restaurant is unveiling a series of four wine-pairing dinners that, one hopes, will become a new annual tradition. Each event hosts wineries representing the country’s finest wine regions and features a five course meal, but that is where the similarity with ordinary wine-pairing dinners ends.
“Usually,” says chef Cohen, “wines are paired with food courses. Our approach with this series is different: We build a wine list first, and then – in consultation with the sommelier of the winery – construct a food menu that will complement each wine.”
This was the explanation diners received from the chef at the inaugural dinner of the current series, which was held earlier this month and featured wines from the Golan Heights winery.
“In anticipation of this dinner,” Cohen added, “I traveled to the Golan Heights and scouted local ingredients that would highlight each wine.”
Accompanying the chef was a representative of the winery, who was on hand to elaborate on the evening’s selections of wines. This will be a hallmark of all the dinners in the Herbert Samuel series.
The theme of the first dinner was “The Wonders of The Golan Heights,” a region famous not only for the vineyards that have produced award winning wines under the Golan Heights label but also for trees that grow apples, almonds and plums, and pastures where sheep and cattle graze, yielding much of the country’s best beef and lamb.
The first course of the Golan Heights evening was citrus-smoked trout from the Dan River, in a sauce of green apples and olive oil. The fresh fish, covered in avocado, was enhanced nicely by the unusual sauce and a dab of spicy aioli, and paired with a 2016 Yarden Pinot Gris. I didn’t know that Israel produced a Pinot Grigio, and this crisp, fruity white wine was an exceptional discovery.
Next was tartare of beef filet with charred onions and wild herbs, served on a potato cracker, alongside a garlic brandy cream. There was only one thing wrong with this small wafer topped with expertly seasoned raw beef: It was gone all too quickly. This course was paired with a 2014 Yarden Pinot Noir, the first of four successive red wines, and the one I ended up liking best.
The third course was lamb spareribs slow-cooked for six hours in tamarind. The rich, tender meat, accented with a touch of sweetness from the fruit, practically melted in the mouth. It was paired with a 2011 Yarden Merlot that benefited greatly from the aging process; it was the most mature vintage of the evening.
The main course was aged entrecôte in wine jus, served with mother of wheat risotto and caramelized pear. The medium-rare steak, cut from Golan Heights prime rib that had been aged in-house, was positively succulent. It was paired with a 2014 Yarden Syrah that was surprisingly full-bodied, so it stood up well to the beef.
Dessert was kadaif with pistachio mousse, prune povidel, chocolate cream and diced fresh plum – a delicious mélange of flavors and textures that was a memorable finish to an unforgettable meal. It was paired with Yarden’s premium dessert wine, T2, which was pleasantly sweet without being cloying.
The upcoming wine-centric meals in the Herbert Samuel series are Tastes of the Judean Hills: Flam, Castel and Tzora wineries (May 9); The Carmel Heights and Valleys: Tulip, Maya and Bat Shlomo wineries (May 20); and Revealing the Negev Mountains: Yatir and Midbar wineries (October 10).The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel
4 Hashunit St., Herzliya Pituah