La Regence restaurant, Jerusalem.
(photo credit: RAMI ARNOLD)
La Régence, the flagship restaurant of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, is the domain of chef David (Dudu) Biton, who has been entrusted by the prestigious Dan Hotel chain to cater to the tastes of its celebrity guests over the years – most recently, President Donald Trump. Fortunately for us commoners, we can also experience the chef’s expertise by simply making a reservation for dinner.
Usually, on the rare occasion that I eat at La Régence, I request the tasting menu, which requires 24-hour advance notice. This time around, I elected to order from the menu, fully confident that I would not be disappointed.
One innovation that I do not recall from any previous visit is the existence of six specialty cocktails, in addition to any other cocktail you might care to order from the King David’s bar. The Citron Royal (NIS 43) is an interesting variation on the classic Kir Royale: Brut Gamla sparkling white wine blended with citron liqueur, served neat in a champagne flute, while the Absolut King (NIS 53) combines vodka with pomegranate juice and fresh mint, served on the rocks in a tumbler. Both drinks were delicious and refreshing, albeit the latter was sweeter than the former.
A meal at La Régence begins with the wait person proffering a selection of breads. Since we could not decide between slices of the olive oil brioche, the classic French bread and the whole grain bread with nuts and blueberries, we greedily asked for all three. It took a great deal of self-control not to fill up on this generous basket of baked goodies, with or without the complex pumpkin spread it came with.
Along with the bread came three kinds of Atlantic sea salt, two of them flavored – with ash vegetables and porcini mushrooms, highlighting the meticulous attention to detail and gastronomic skill that the restaurant brings even to the most mundane of condiments.
Our first choice of starter was the goose liver terrine (NIS 98), accompanied by pralined pecans, a sesame and cocoa tuile and wine jelly. While the gentle sweetness of the candied nuts cut the extreme richness of the pâté, the dish remained decadently sumptuous. My companion and I would gladly have wanted this appetizer to be a main course, in order to have that much more to share.
Our other starter was the beetroot plum flan with plum cream and beetroot sorbet (NIS 55). Forget what you ever thought you knew about the way beets taste: these flavors and textures – helped along with sprinkles of crispy wild rice – would make a convert out of anyone who previously dissed this lowly vegetable.
As we awaited our main courses, we were served a palate cleanser – an emerald green granita of herbs and vodka. This cool, tasty powerhouse of refreshment certainly created a clean slate for transitioning to the next phase of our meal.
We chose one meat and one poultry dish as main courses. The browned lamb chops with parsley cream (NIS 220), served in a sauce of red wine and beef stock, were about the thickest I have ever seen. Grilled the recommended medium-rare, the two chops were juicy and succulent.
The roast duck (NIS 160) featured slices of velvety breast that imparted a hint of smokiness, along with an onion stuffed with a delectable rillette of leg of duck. The double dose of duck came with al dente peas on a bed of creamed sweet potato.
The desserts (NIS 50) reflect the same creativity that is the hallmark of La Régence. Topping the list was the unique chocolate and olive oil – chocolate fondant and ganache-covered mousse with olive oil sweets on cocoa crumble. Together with modulating the dessert’s sweetness, the pure, low-acid oil enhanced the depth of the chocolate notes.
The sparkling wine zabaglione, meanwhile, took maximum advantage of the natural sweetness of fresh plum and blueberries, balanced by chiffony egg white custard.
Biton’s reputation is such in the culinary community of Israel that La Régence is one of the few – and sometimes only – kosher restaurants listed among the very best restaurants in the country, period. It certainly deserves to be on anyone’s short list of preferred places for celebrating a special occasion.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
King David Hotel
23 King David St., Jerusalem
Tel: (02) 620-8795