(photo credit: PR)
Changes are afoot in the southeastern quadrant of the Sarona Market compound in Tel Aviv. The multimillion dollar Whiskey Bar and Museum, a kosher gourmet establishment, opened recently, while its neighbor, the upscale Jajo Wine and Tapas Bar, is closing and preparing to reopen in a kosher iteration. Through this all, chef Ran Shmueli’s Claro restaurant has remained a stable presence, true to its “farm to table” commitment to serve market-fresh ingredients that will never falter in quality, while always allowing for seasonal variety.
The use of produce delivered daily to the restaurant from more than 10 farms extends even to the natural ingredients in the syrups that flavor Claro’s specialty cocktails. Our knowledgeable waitress, who also spoke excellent English, recommended two of them in particular (both NIS 52): Luna – citron vodka, passion fruit syrup, lemon juice, coriander and ginger ale, garnished with orange peel; and Basilica – gin, purple and green basil, lemon juice and seasonal fruit syrup, garnished with a large sprig of fresh basil.
Both cocktails were complex and refreshing, with the former getting an extra kick from ginger, and the latter from basil.
We started with the house bread (NIS 28), a round loaf of whole grain Moroccan frena, whose crust had been brushed with olive oil, sea salt and za’atar.
The fresh bread was served with a zesty matboukha, as well as labaneh perked up with skhug and olives.
Our vegetarian first course was poached asparagus in an aromatic butter sauce, with a mediumboiled egg that had been breaded and gently fried, and a sprinkling of edible basil flowers (NIS 68).
The al dente asparagus was nicely enhanced by the combination of lemony herbed butter sauce and runny egg yolk – a mixture that we eagerly soaked up with the remaining bread.
The chef himself sent out the next dish: raw Mediterranean fish on a bed of freekeh tabouleh with wood sorrel, yogurt, pistachio nuts and tomato salsa (NIS 68). The fresh catch of the day was red mackerel of a particularly dazzling ruby hue; the fish practically exploded with flavor, then melted in the mouth. Together with the tasty grain, the green herbs of the tabouleh, the mild salsa and the crunch of chopped pistachios, this dish was an inspired mélange of flavors and textures.
As our main course, the “butcher’s best cut” – a.k.a. “the steak of the day,” according to the Hebrew menu – was meant to be shared. Priced by weight (NIS 58 per 100 grams), it is occasionally small enough for one but usually intended for two. Our entrecôte on the bone was served on a wooden platter with flavorful mashed potatoes, meaty grilled mushrooms and succulent bone marrow.
Just as I had learned from a previous visit to Claro that you do not necessarily need to go to a specialty fish restaurant in order to eat first-class fish, the butcher’s best cut proved that one need not go to a steakhouse to enjoy premium steak in Tel Aviv.
As expected, the wine list is curated with expertise, comprising fine domestic vintages and Old World wines from Europe. There is a very limited selection by the glass, but among them are three Claro private label options: one red, one white and one rosé, representing collaborations with some of Israel’s best wineries.
It was hard to save room for dessert, but it was worth taking a walk to the corner dessert station and receiving explanations as we surveyed the treats. First-time visitors should consider the unique bread pudding or the king-sized truffle. Our waitress recommended the cheesecake (NIS 48) with sour cream frosting, assorted fresh berries and raspberry coulis.
Remarkably, it was decadently rich without being heavy.
The fresh fruit tart, meanwhile, a daily special (NIS 42), was a delectable celebration of fruits bursting with flavor – plump blueberries and tart plums – on a crust of delicate, flaky pastry moistened by sweet cream.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.Claro
23 Ha’arba’a St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 601-7777