Vicky Cristina evokes the tastes and atmosphere of Spain.
(photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
With the impending closure of Cerveceria after four years of excellence, Tel Aviv is losing one of its few great tapas bars. Fortunately for fans of these Spanish specialties, Vicky Cristina Tapas and Wine Bar, now in its seventh year, is still going strong and showing no signs of slowing down.
Vicky Cristina, with its cavernous main room and two al fresco areas, is a sprawling presence in the popular Tachana compound. In spite of its size, we received very attentive personal service. A waiter not even assigned to our table came over to ask if we perhaps wanted an outdoor heater moved closer to us.
As a wine bar, Vicky Cristina places little emphasis on cocktails, but the house sangria is a nice blend of red wine and citrus, with a complex undertone of spice (NIS 42). In the winter, it may be ordered warm.
Equally refreshing and distinctive is the clara con limon (NIS 28), a kind of shandy combining beer and bitter lemon.
The food menu comprises six categories: Delicatessen (a selection of cold cuts and/or cheeses); Verduras (Vegetables, including salads); Classics; Mariscos y Pesca (Fish and Seafood); Carne (Meat); and Specials. The small plates make it possible to plan an adventurous meal by sampling one from each category.
The Delicatessen section, which features primarily cold cuts and cheeses, led off with the Pan de la Casa (NIS 18). This house bread – a warm, baguette-style roll with a crispy crust and fluffy interior – was served with a mild salsa spiked with olive oil and garlic; but it was best saved for accompanying the dishes to come.
Among the Classics was Queso Frito (NIS 39) – fried Bouche cheese served with onion marmalade and a spicy tomato and pepper sauce. The white goat cheese was battered and fried to a beautiful golden brown, the crunchy exterior a nice counterpoint to the soft interior. The onion marmalade was barely noticeable in the zesty sauce, but that did not detract from this great dish built around the rich cheese.
From the seafood subcategory of the Seafood and Fish section, our knowledgeable waitress recommended the Chiparones a la Plancha (NIS 43) – seared purple calamari with red onion, chili oil, herbs and lemon. The understated heat allowed the freshness of the expertly seasoned squid to shine through.
Our fish selection was taken from the Specials list, thanks once again to a suggestion from the waitress. The Pescado Ta’amal (NIS 58) was fillet of red drum fish steamed inside a charred corn husk with mango salsa, lemon and jalapeno pepper. The perfectly cooked white sea fish melted in the mouth, while the chili imparted just the right amount of heat.
Paella is a dish that is sine qua non in a Spanish restaurant, and we were happy to find it in the Vegetables category as well. The Vegan Paella (NIS 49) – rice in vegetable stock and coconut cream with truffle oil, mushrooms, zucchini, chestnuts, red onion and herbs – was a pleasant surprise: one of the best vegan dishes I have had in a while.
Our waitress practically insisted we try the Maiz Blanco (NIS 29) – lightly grilled white corn in a provolone cheese fondue sauce sprinkled with red paprika. The fresh corn was as sweet as sugar cane and transported me back to the US, where the white corn in season was something we waited for all year long.
Of the four desserts on the menu, three of them featured chocolate. The Helado (NIS 42) – soft vanilla ice cream with hazelnut sauce, candied cashew and almond tuile – would appeal to anyone who likes Ferrero Rocher candy, while the Chocolate Oscuro (NIS 42) was flourless (glutenfree) chocolate cake in the unusual shape of rectangular bars. The chocolate cake was decadently rich and was a special treat when paired a la mode with the ice cream.
Throughout the meal, we enjoyed the recorded flamenco music, which added to the restaurant’s pleasant ambience. Several evenings a week, flamenco music is performed live.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Vicky Cristina Tapas and Wine Bar Not kosher 17b Hatahana, Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 736-7272