The restaurant named Pomo (short for pomodoro, which means tomato in Italian) is one of a string of inviting eateries on Tel Aviv’s HaBarzel Street, which can compete with Rothschild Boulevard for the sheer number of restaurants on one road. It boasts an expansive wooden deck for al fresco seating (enclosed in winter), and an elegantly designed interior with a variety of seating: bar, tables and booths. The background music is muted mild jazz, while there was a complete absence of families with children on the evening we were there.
Perhaps a hint at the reason for these demographics came after meeting the chef. Ivan Maslov told us that he never had formal training in – or even restaurant experience with – Italian cuisine. On the other hand, he has worked in Michelin-starred establishments in Europe, and with some of Israel's best chefs (viz., Aviv Moshe, Jonathan Roshfeld and Avi Conforti).
The menu certainly has its share of familiar Italian fare, but also reflects a high degree of variety and sophistication.
We were given English menus per our request, only to discover that neither the food nor cocktail menu has been updated in that language since the Hebrew menu was recently refreshed. Therefore, we had to maneuver back and forth between the Hebrew and English menus. Hopefully, the new English menu will be available soon.
The wine list, meanwhile, was in Hebrew only. Not even a previous English one was available. Moreover, the cocktail menu is characterized by that bizarre Israeli habit of mixing the two languages: the cocktail names are in English only, with the descriptions in Hebrew only – an arrangement designed to frustrate and annoy speakers of both languages.
Similarly, the menu section headings are in English, while all the rest is in Hebrew.
There are seven specialty cocktails (NIS 48-53), from which we selected Tommie’s Mango – vodka and mango, served neat in a martini glass, garnished with basil leaves and smoked chili pepper – and the rum-based Pomo Colada, served on the rocks in a highball glass with mint garnish.
Both were on the sweet side, the former with a slightly piquant finish, while the latter was very refreshing.
The menu comprises five sections: Starters (NIS 49-68), Pasta (NIS 69-98), Pizza (NIS 53-72), Salads (NIS 49-64), and Mains (NIS 96-159). Vegan options are not readily apparent, but since vegan cheese may be substituted for regular cheese throughout, many pasta and pizza dishes qualify as vegan alternatives.
As we perused the menu, we snacked on the house focaccia (NIS 23), a generously herbed fluffy loaf hot from the pizza oven. The accompanying “three dips” were actually one saucer of olive oil containing dollops of three condiments: balsamic vinegar, garlic confit, and a mild tomato salsa.
We asked Chef Ivan to bring us his suggestions for our dinner, and he willingly obliged. First came one of that evening’s specials: tuna tartare in blood orange sauce, with touches of shallot, white balsamic and pepper aioli.
This outstanding dish took maximum advantage of the freshness of that day’s catch; and even my companion, who ordinarily is not a fan of raw fish, was pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed it.
Our second starter – burrata carciofi – was more classically Italian: a large scoop of milky white, cream-filled mozzarella surrounded by roasted artichoke, cherry tomatoes and Kalamata olives in a robust sauce of olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. The intermingling flavors, once the burrata shell was pierced, were terrific.
Our pasta course was another special of the night: scallops with black risotto, garnished with red chili pepper. The presentation of this dish – white scallops against the background of inky black rice, dotted with bright red disks of chili – was positively stunning, while the taste was equally impressive. The scallops melted in the mouth, while the risotto enhanced the seafood without overwhelming it.
Our main course was a whole sea bass, cooked in the Josper oven, and served on a bed of potato, cherry tomatoes and Kalamata olives in a butter-and-white-wine sauce. Again, the dish was visually spectacular, while the texture and taste of the fish were superb.
If you ever get the chance to eat fish prepared in this unique oven, seize the opportunity.
The separate dessert menu – actually in Hebrew and English – listed five desserts (NIS 34-51), plus two recurring specials explained by the waiter. Since Chef Ivan had not steered us wrong yet, we accepted his final two suggestions as well: lemon pie, and apple crack pie.
The chiffony meringue of the very good lemon pie made this version surprisingly light, while the excellent crack pie topped with stewed spiced apple (and accompanied by a mound of whipped cream) was a cut above the rest of the crop of crack pie desserts springing up around Tel Aviv.
Pomo is the kind of place that has something for everyone’s palate, from basic Italian favorites to refined cosmopolitan cuisine.
HaBarzel St. 11, Tel Aviv
Sun-Wed, Sat: Noon-11 p.m.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.