The Sheraton Tel Aviv restaurant.
(photo credit: PR)
Vegan is cool. It’s in. New vegan restaurants are popping up all over the place to cater to the increasing number of Israelis and tourists who want to eat only plant-based food.
As one who has had a vegan family member for more than four years now, I can attest to the fact that vegan cooking is a challenge, and there are only so many variations a home cook can do with lentils and tofu.
So when I heard that the Tel Aviv Sheraton Hotel’s head chef, Charlie Fadida, was going to be presenting vegan food at the signature Olive Leaf restaurant, I jumped at the chance to try it out in a tasting evening for food writers and bloggers. My dining companion was, naturally, my vegan son.
Fadida is a master of presentation, and the dishes laid out for inspection were all miniature works of art – a beautiful array of colors, shapes and designs. He is also extremely creative when it comes to tastes. For example, he made a wonderful bright maroon sauce from tehina and beetroot. The whole meal was a culinary adventure, with some truly original dishes.
As accompaniments to the opening drinks, which included champagne, we were served two canapes: a falafel in the shape of a rugby ball, very peppery, which came with creamy tehina; and a miniature wrap of julienned carrots and peppers.
Once we sat down at the beautifully laid tables with linen napkins and white china, looking out at the sun setting over the Mediterranean, we were able to indulge in crusty white bread and the usual dips but with an exceptionally good pesto added to the oil/balsamic and the excellent mixed olives.
The actual starters consisted of three items. First up was the carpaccio of zucchini. It consisted of paper-thin slices of zucchini cooked al dente, served with raw beetroot cut into decorative discs. Around this was a tantalizingly small amount of a delicious sweet balsamic cream-like dressing. I could have eaten gallons of the stuff. The whole edifice was topped with a handful of sprouted sunflower seeds.
The second starter was eggplant soup. This was classic roasted aubergine blended into more of a cream than a soup, with lashings of garlic. Wonderful! And third, a tomato tarte tatin. It was built from slices of skinned and seeded tomato draped around a piquant eggplant and tofu cream, perched on a crispy round of flaky pastry.
The main course – three items – were a mushroom burger served on a sweet bun, mushroom kubeh and couscous.
The burger seemed to be made of some grain – lentils possibly – and although very tasty, it bore little resemblance to my dim memories of the real thing, although it looked right. More interesting was the kubeh – a deep-fried oval of dough filled with a delicious mushroom sauce. I thought the couscous was a bit tasteless, although the grains were wonderfully cooked and fluffy.
The three dessert selections arrived together on a long rectangular plate, and were all superb: a chocolate volcano; a “sushi” of dates with pistachio nuts; and a banana tart with almond pastry and coconut ice cream.
The hotel manager, Franco Vella, told the assembled diners that the Sheraton Hotel will be adding vegan choices to its regular menus to cater to the increasing demand.
“As a hotel, we feel we should not do what everyone else does,” Vella said. “We see people struggle with the limitations of one dish, and we feel that vegans should have more of a choice and enjoy their food as much as meat eaters.”
Guests at the Sheraton Tel Aviv will now have the chance to eat vegan food in all the hotel’s facilities – the breakfast buffet, lobby lounge, room service and pool, as well as at the Olive Leaf itself.
Prices for all vegan courses start at NIS 35 and go no higher than NIS 66. As the portions are small, every order comes as a trio of Fadida creations.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
115 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 521-1111