The secret garden.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Vino Socca, the Herzliya restaurant and small events hall, is a world unto itself. Situated in the busy industrial area of Herzliya Pituah, with car dealerships, factories and fast food joints surrounding it, it’s an unbelievable oasis of refinement set in the rough and tumble of a bustling commercial neighborhood.
You could almost miss the unassuming entrance when you drive up to Vino Socca, but the minute you step out and hear the offer of valet parking from the uniformed concierge on duty, you know you are in for a special evening.
Walking down a flight of steps through an indoor garden only adds to that impression. And once you reach the restaurant, the décor only confirms that this is not your usual evening out at an Israeli eatery.
How can one describe the opulence and glamour of the place without sounding too gushing? Every conceivable decorative motif has been incorporated to create the luxurious effect – richly tiled floors, mirrored ceilings, arty bare brick walls, crystal chandeliers, wrought-iron room dividers, textured walls, Oriental rugs and mahogany glass-fronted cabinets displaying antique-like objects and expensive-looking wines.
The ladies’ cloakroom is an inviting haven with pink shell-like sinks, decorative taps and a choice of fluffy white hand towels or soft paper wipes.
They have even provided a tray of cotton buds, should you get the urge to clean out your ears in the middle of dinner.
And so to the food. Waiters hover around solicitously, and the knowledgeable wine waiter, or sommelier, can fill you in on the most esoteric details about the different wines on offer.
We were there to sample the new tasting menu, which gives one the chance to try some of the innovative dishes created by chef Ishai Attias, who has been there for the last four years.
The first thing to arrive at the table was the homemade bread, a thickcrusted whole wheat loaf that tasted as though it had just emerged from the oven. It came with a bland tomato and cucumber salsa and top-quality olive oil for dipping (NIS 18).
We sampled several different starters, which all came in tantalizingly small quantities but were perfect for allaying the pangs of hunger and giving an overview of the variety of tastes available. They included tuna sashimi – thinly sliced raw fish served with olives and a piquant sauce (NIS 36); green gnocchi in a creamy mushroom sauce with asparagus and spinach leaves (NIS 35); eggplant with Ethiopian tehina, which was smoky, garlicky and slightly sweet (NIS 33); and carpaccio – slivers of pink meat served with garlic confit and pine nuts (NIS 36). All were excellent, and we discovered that the sauces owed their creaminess to the judicious use of coconut cream.
Several more hors d’oeuvres appeared, including fresh blanched asparagus with aioli, pickled lemon and roasted peppers (NIS 32) and potato ratta, consisting of cubes of sweet potato mingled with slices of goose breast (NIS 30).
Two red wines were served. The first was a mix of Sirah, Cabernet and Merlot from the Harei Galil Winery, and the second was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon Franc and Petit Verdun, which had slightly less body.
Wines are served at NIS 45 a glass, but the sommelier, Yoni, assured us that they also have some very rare and expensive wines in their cellar.
Our waiter, Ma’ayan, brought refreshing lemon and mint sorbet to the table before the main course, which was very welcome.
We sampled two excellent fish dishes: bread-crumb encrusted sea bream on a bed of green beans (NIS 45) and fillets of grouper in a creamy porcini mushroom sauce, served in a miniature copper pot (NIS 55). Both were excellent.
The main meat course consisted of tender cubes of fillet steak with goose liver, served on a bed of creamed potato puree with scrumptious rich brown gravy (NIS 55).
The dessert menu offered my favorite crème brulee. I had my doubts if it could be made without fresh cream but tried it anyway. It was a brave attempt but didn’t quite work.
The fresh raspberries on the side diverted one’s attention from the fact that it was made with parve cream (NIS 26).
The other dessert choice of éclairs worked better, as the choux pastry was good, and the amount of cream small enough not to be noticeable.
We ended our meal with mint tea and espresso coffee, and both of us came to the conclusion that a meal at Vino Socca is a gastronomic experience not to be missed.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
7 Galgalei Haplada, Herzliya Pituah
Sunday to Thursday, 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.