(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
One of Israel’s best kept tourist secrets is that it can get really cold here in the winter. This can come as quite a surprise to visitors seeking the Mediterranean sun, but we residents know better, stocking up on sweaters, boots and thick jackets whenever we take a trip back home.
Under the slogan “Warm up your winter,” the Tel Aviv Hilton is offering a selection of soups and other warm dishes in the lobby, which are just the thing to take the chill off. We were invited to sample the offerings recently and can report that the Hilton kitchen and chef Rafik Jabarin are well up there in the comfort food zone.
Sitting at one of the tables and listening to the resident pianist playing hits of yesteryear quietly in the background, we perused the dairy menu and each chose a promisinglooking soup.
My companion plumped for the French onion soup served with browned Gouda croutons (NIS 45), and I chose the harira soup with aromatic spices and herbs served with frena bread, a North African fluffy pita originally baked in a communal oven (NIS 42).
The onion soup had a rich winy flavor with a hint of cumin. The croutons were really a large crust, with melted sharp cheese, which perfectly complemented the soup. The harira soup was practically a meal in itself. Beans, barley, chickpeas and two kinds of lentils were all detected in the bowl that was set before me. It was almost a liquid cholent, although it originates in Morocco, where it is often eaten to break the Ramadan fast. Both soups arrived from the kitchen piping hot and just what was needed on a cold winter night.
For the main course, I chose salmon served with root salad (NIS 113), while my companion selected sea bass with tehina and assorted vegetables (NIS 120). I still enjoy the ubiquitous salmon, remembering the days when it wasn’t available in Israel. This fillet had been marinaded in a sweet and sour bath, was brown, slightly sweet and mouth-watering. It was served with julienned raw beets, kohlrabi and carrot, all still very crunchy.
The sea bass, or lavrak, consisted of three fillets, lightly fried, on a base of fennel, cauliflower and tehina. It was ultra-fresh, very tasty, and the vegetables were all as al dente as they should be.
For dessert one could choose Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (three scoops for NIS 42), but we virtuously chose the sugar-free cheesecake (NIS 45) – mildly sweet low-fat cheese on a very thin biscuit base. And in the end, I could not resist a helping of pastry chef Idan Hadad’s divine lemon tart – buttery pastry filled with lemon curd topped with dollops of icing sugar cream. If he ever wanted to replace the dollops with fresh Chantilly cream, I would have no problem. The edible gold leaf added a touch of luxury.
Two beautifully decorated cappuccinos ended what was a truly exceptional meal.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
205 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 520-2222
Sun-Thurs, noon to midnight