the restaurant Alena at the Norman Hotel..
(photo credit: PR)
In the five years that it has been in existence, The Norman has garnered a reputation as one of Tel Aviv’s leading luxury boutique hotels. In addition, the property’s two restaurants – Dinings and The Norman – are fine dining establishments that have attracted loyal followings, the former in the category of Japanese cuisine, and the latter as a brasserie specializing in French-Italian Mediterranean cuisine.
Recently, executive chef Barak Aharoni updated The Norman’s menu, in anticipation of the restaurant’s rebranding – and renaming. In a few weeks, the ground-floor restaurant will bear the name Alena, after the wife of the legendary Norman for whom the hotel is named.
As befits the dining room of a five-star hotel, the restaurant’s tables are set with gleaming silverware and starched white tablecloths. If the weather is amenable, however, one can sit in the impressive al fresco area, set in the property’s beautifully manicured citrus garden.
The Norman offers five signature cocktails (NIS 48-69), several of which appealed on a warm summer’s eve. The Miss Ginger – gin, Lillet and freshly squeezed apple-ginger-lime juice, garnished with a slice of green apple – was indeed fruity and refreshing.
The El Capitan, meanwhile – dark and light rum with pineapple juice and lime – sounded even more like a frosty tropical drink one might sip while relaxing on a beach. However, it was served without ice in a martini glass and packed quite a punch.
The cocktails are listed in an alcohol menu that is part of a thick, leather-bound wine list curated by the hotel’s highly credentialed sommelier, Shira Tsiddon. Consisting exclusively of wines from Israel and Europe, it is as comprehensive and detailed a selection of fine wines as one is likely to find in an Israeli restaurant.
A meal at The Norman starts with a silver basket filled with soft and crusty bread. It is served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which is poured tableside by the waiter – an example of the impeccable service that enhanced our meal.
The menu is divided into five categories: From the Garden; Pasta; Fish and Seafood; Chicken; and Beef. The first category, comprising both cooked vegetables and salads, contains the largest number of dishes.
We started with the baby gem lettuce salad, with goat cheese, dried blueberries and pecans (NIS 42). The crisp lettuce, savory cheese, sweet fruit and crunchy pecans tossed in a delicious basil oil vinaigrette added up to one of the most original and tastiest salads we have had in a long time.
For our pasta course, we chose the grouper spaghettini (NIS 96): thin strands of egg yolk pasta studded generously with morsels of white grouper in a white wine sauce seasoned with chili and herbs. There was a fine balance between pasta and fish, and the heat of the chili was just enough to leave a pleasant tingle in the mouth.
At this point in the meal, the restaurant manager came up with a surprise suggestion: to try the grilled chicken breast (NIS 78). He conceded that it sounded prosaic but insisted that the sous vide cooking process, resulting in poultry so tender you could cut it with a fork, would not disappoint.
Indeed, the chicken did pass the fork test; and the vacuum cooking method, coupled with the distinctive sauce of preserved lemon, Kalamata olives and rosemary, yielded a dish that was surprisingly good.
The Beef category features primarily steaks (NIS 145-195), including our ultimate choice, the special of the evening: sirloin on the bone. The sizable charbroiled steak, grilled to a perfect medium, was positively succulent.
There is a separate menu for desserts (NIS 36-48), from which our waitress had no trouble recommending two. The panna cotta made with goat’s milk, topped with fresh mango and meringue kisses, was light and sweet. An ideal summer dessert.
The bread and butter pudding, a signature Norman dessert, was at the other end of the spectrum: dense and heavy. Drenched in crême anglaise poured over the top by the waiter, the vanilla cream seeped through the golden-brown crust and into the thick pudding, making for a moist, rich dessert so decadent, it banished any guilt about carbs.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Alena (The Norman)
The Norman Hotel
25 Nahmani St.,
Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 543-5444
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