(photo credit: PR)
The upscale Asian restaurant Taizu has been reviewed in these pages before – albeit not for more than a year – but never in the context of its Sunday evening incarnation, when the versatile kitchen switches its focus from East and Southeast Asia to South Asia. In fact, the entire restaurant metamorphoses: The kitchen and wait staff are in partial costume, the fragrance of incense wafts gently in the air, and rhythmic Bollywood music plays at a level just below what might interfere with conversation.
What does carry over on Sundays from the regular menu is the list of specialty cocktails, from which we order ed two: the Lady Gin (NIS 50)– gin, cucumber, lime and ginger, served in a martini glass – and the Red Orange Sage (NIS 54) – vodka, orange juice, sage, ginger and lime, poured over a tower of crushed ice. Both are very refreshing. The former is slightly astringent, while the latter represents a nice balance of sweet and tart.
The menu, available in English or Hebrew, is divided into three parts: Appetizers, Entrées and Main Courses. The best value is the Thali Dinner. It is essentially a tasting menu comprising sample dishes from each of the three categories.
Basically, you choose between two options – the dinner costing NIS 220 per person or NIS 270 per person – and sit back and let the feast commence. The waiter will ask if there is anything you don’t eat, then bring you the chef’s selections. (Note: There are some inaccuracies in the English menu, which is not updated as frequently as the Hebrew one; the English menu on the website is even less reliable than the printed one.) The meal commenced with an array of appetizers that filled the table, making it difficult to decide which one to start with. Perhaps the most intriguing visually was the Taizu take on pani puri, two crisp shells encasing fish tartare, alongside a small bowl of cold soup on which floated a purple flower. The fragile savories were meant to be dipped in the cool hot-and-sour broth and popped whole in the mouth, where it exploded in a burst of freshness and flavor.
The “peas cake” was actually cupcake-shaped pea-and-potato croquettes, topped with a tomatococonut chutney. The rissoles were subtly seasoned, while the chutney was the first of many delectably complex condiments and sauces we were to enjoy throughout the evening.
The stuffed paratha was fried flatbread filled with paneer cheese and caramelized onions, served with a small green salad and raita.
The onions unfortunately overwhelmed the soft white paneer, but the combination of a warm sandwich with the only salad of the evening was very welcome. In particular, the unusual raita was an eye-opener, as the yogurt appeared to be perked up with horseradish.
The aloo gobi masala was the only actual curry of the meal: cauliflower, potato and tiny black spinach dumplings in a tomato curry sauce with a scoop of paneer on top. The contrast of the warm curry versus the cool cheese was just one of the special elements contributing to this extraordinary dish, characterized by an amalgam of exotic spices.
Officially, the real thali dinner kicked off when the rice arrived, accompanied by four cooked dishes. Taizu’s rice was unique, cooked in coconut milk squeezed on the premises; even eaten plain, the fluffy grains were worthy of accolades.
The one dish not bathed in a sauce was the baby zucchini stuffed with lamb: the al dente vegetable filled with melt-in-yourmouth lamb studded with crunchy pistachio and macadamia nuts needed nothing extra to be sublime.
The one seafood dish was mussels in cashew sauce (a crab variation was also on the menu).
I’m pretty sure I never saw mussels in India, but that didn’t prevent this dish from being extraordinary, thanks primarily to the rich sauce, which brought both the flesh of the mollusc and the white rice to new levels.
Vindaloo is frequently a fiery challenge; thankfully, Taizu’s beef vindaloo was a slightly muted version, though nonetheless excellent. The tender roast chuck was rendered all the more succulent by the magnificent sauce that left a pleasant lingering warmth in the mouth. Wrapping a dripping morsel of the meat in a paratha with a slice of red onion and a dab of sour cream, and I was on my way to culinary paradise.
Last was the butter chicken. A staple of practically every Indian restaurant in the West, Taizu’s interpretation surpassed most, with its chunks of juicy chicken breast and the fabulous sauce in which they were marinated.
Desserts (NIS 52) were the same as every other night of the week, with one notable exception: bread pudding. This Indian version has the familiar “comfort food” consistency of its American counterpart and imparted the same sweet, stick-to-the-ribs sense of satisfaction. It also tasted remarkably like a solid version of masala chai, which was not among the hot drinks available on the Indian night menu.
We also sampled the chocolate pie – a wedge of gooey confection with the smooth texture of soft fudge, surrounded by little dollops of peppermint mousse, salted truffles, masala raisins and caramelized bananas. A chocolate lover’s delight.
There are not many elegant restaurants in Israel that serve Indian food, so Taizu was a real find, especially since it served the best Indian cuisine I have ever experienced in this country.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
23 Menachem Begin Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 522-5005