Republic’s Gifted New Guard

The popular Hod Hasharon brasserie welcomes a new team of chefs.

May 31, 2019 21:46
4 minute read.
Republic’s Gifted New Guard

Republic now has a new team of chefs. (photo credit: JONATHAN BEN HAIM)

When the owners of the sophisticated Tel Aviv nightclub/restaurant Social Club opened a similar upscale establishment two summers ago in the bedroom suburb of Hod Hasharon, they were taking quite a gamble. Yet the transplant succeeded; and the kitchen of the hip, stylish brasserie -- with an almost equal emphasis on alcohol, food and atmosphere -- is now helmed by acclaimed chef Ofir Vidavski, who recently revised the menu.

It is almost de rigueur to start a meal at Republic with one of its seven specialty cocktails (NIS 48-56) mixed by the talented bartenders working at the fully stocked, mirrored bar. These cocktails -- as well as nine wines by the glass (NIS 30-54) and five kinds of draft and bottled beer (NIS 27-29) -- take pride of place on the main menu together with the food; there is a separate, leatherbound wine list featuring vintages from around the world, available in carafes and bottles.  

While I had fond memories of my previous Republic cocktails, our friendly waitress informed us that there were some new specialty cocktails, and recommended the East India -- cognac, rum, lemon juice, homemade pineapple syrup and triple sec, served on the rocks in a goblet and garnished with a slice of candied pineapple. My companion, meanwhile, opted for the equally intriguing Billie Jean -- gin, agave, lemon juice, St. Germain, raspberry vinegar and angostura bitters, with a yolk foam -- decorated, in the style of a caffe latte, with a cute representation of a giraffe. The two drinks had very   different flavors -- and even textures -- but both packed quite a punch, and were excellent. 

Our host for the evening was owner-manager Ronen Shemesh, who pointed out the new dishes on the menu -- which actually represent less than half of the restaurant’s dishes, many of which have already become Republic classics. Our waitress then explained that evening’s specials, leaving us plenty of tough choices to make from the bilingual food menu, which comprises three main categories: Starters (NIS 49-68); Vegetables (NIS 46-70); and no fewer than 15 Main Courses (NIS 63-156). The latter two categories -- and especially the section containing both cooked vegetables and salads big enough to be meals themselves -- include vegetarian and vegan options.  

When we were ready to order, a male waiter who appeared to be surprised by English-speaking customers suddenly appeared. Nonetheless, we proceeded exactly as before, and watched him note down our appetizers and main courses.

First came the red tuna tartare, redolent with herbs and purple onion, plus a bit of baby asparagus and a touch of chili, beautifully presented in a pool of lime-yuzu vinaigrette. The extremely fresh raw fish was nicely enhanced -- and thankfully not overwhelmed -- by these carefully selected and measured ingredients.

For some reason, our intermediate course of roasted beet and blue cheese salad arrived at the same time as the tartare, so we started in on it as soon as the fish was gone. The other salad ingredients -- endive, grilled onlon, crême fraîche, aged balsamic vinegar and chopped hazelnuts -- worked in ideal harmony, although the tiny morsels of blue cheese were insufficient at first; as soon as more was added, the proper balance was restored. The moral of the story: don’t be shy to ask for more blue cheese if you find it lacking.     

Our initial waitress returned to ask if we were ready for the main courses to be served, and we regrettably had to inform her that our second appetizer still had not arrived. Apparently, the kitchen never got the message. A bit of a wait later, our Lebanese veal dumplings arrived.

This new dish turned out to be gently seared ravioli pockets stuffed with veal delicately seasoned by an exotic mix of herbs and spices, interspersed among small dollops of labaneh and mild tomato salsa, and sprinkled with pine nuts. This was a unique and truly outstanding dish, with a slightly surprising tingle of heat. 

Our first main course was the Santa Fe Supereme (sic) chicken breast, in a curiosity provoking yuzu chipotle sauce. Unfortunately, the chicken was disappointingly dry, and the evocative sauce did not live up to expectations. The side dish of baked sweet potato was, on the other hand, quite good.

The seafood linguini, meanwhile, came in a tomato confit sauce, which was the first time I had ever encountered a seafood pasta dish in anything other than either a straightforward sauce of olive oil and garlic, or a light cream sauce. It did not take long for us to realize why a concentrated tomato sauce is not the preferred choice for seafood pasta; the assortment of quality shrimps, calamari and mussels, however, was generous and tasty.   

The separate dessert menu -- which, bewilderingly, is in Hebrew only -- lists four desserts (NIS 48-44), prepared by Republic’s new dedicated pastry chef, Nurit Chitayat. The authentic mille feuille -- flaky pastry layered with rich, sweet crême pâtissière -- was perfect, worthy of a real Parisian pâtisserie.

Finally, the chocolate cannoli was equally reminiscent of its Italian origins, and a chocolate lover’s delight. The exceptional desserts brought us back to the level of expertise demonstrated by the two starters, all of which bodes well for the future of Republic. 

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Republic. Not kosher. Hanagar St. 24, Hod Hasharon. Tel. (09) 887-8800

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