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It seems a bit strange to travel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv for a steak, but we were told that Meat Bar has the best steaks in Israel. The reason is that the meat is Israeli, fresh (never frozen or vacuum-packed), and delivered straight from the farm to the restaurant, where it is aged on hooks. Brothers Shai and Sharon Shlomi opened the Meat Bar 13 years ago, and chef Yankele Shein is a culinary consultant to many other Tel Aviv eateries.
The restaurant is on the small side, warm and welcoming, with wooden furniture. There is an outdoor enclosed terrace which is a smoking area, and a long, well-equipped bar with high stools in the main dining room.
Menus are in Hebrew and English. The first page lists a comprehensive wine menu for serious wine drinkers. There are South African, Israeli and French sparkling vintages (NIS 119 to NIS 435), and white wines from Israel, South Africa and Germany (NIS 85 to NIS 144 ). Among the reds are Israeli, Italian, Spanish, French, South African, Australian and American varieties (NIS 89 to NIS 295).
Our waitress was very knowledgeable, and although our preference leans to Merlot, she suggested the Recanati Sauvignon, which was indeed perfect with the meat. If you have a favorite bottle of wine you can arrange in advance to have it with your meal, for a corkage fee.
We had a glass of South African bubbly as an aperitif, but one of our group wanted to taste the margarita listed on the cocktail menu. We were informed that unfortunately this cocktail is only served in summer, and from a prepared mix. The barman, however, sensing our disappointment, rose to the challenge and, although not having all the necessary ingredients, made a cocktail which was potent and far better than many served in other establishments.
Kudos to the staff for accommodating a patron.
While sipping our drinks, we perused the menu, which is minimal and interesting. We tried several of the first courses, including the beef filet carpaccio - pink, tender and nicely spiced with lemon and Parmesan (NIS 46). The sirloin and bacon skewers (NIS 38) were a little dry, whereas the chicken liver terrine (NIS 38) was richly creamy, with the pear confit accompaniment an excellent contrast to the strong liver taste. This dish was served with toast.
Another delight was the egg salad made with shmaltz, bringing back memories of grandma's kitchen.
We also tried two of the three sausages on offer. The first was an Italian frankfurter stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, pine nuts and mozzarella (NIS 54); the second was a truffle frankfurter stuffed with white paste of truffle and Parmesan (NIS 59). Both were moist, tasty and served on a bun accompanied by a plate of house-made salad, sauerkraut, pickles, mustard and ketchup. There is also a Merguez Moroccan sausage (NIS 48).
The 250-gram all-ground beef hamburger comes with various toppings (NIS 56 to 59). There are 300-gram sirloin (NIS 98), 250-gram beef fillet (NIS 126); 300-gram (NIS 108) and 400-gram (NIS 124) entrecote steaks. We all opted for the entrecote, as we find sirloin a little chewy and fillet, while the tenderest of meats, lacking in taste. The well-marbled entrecote was grilled to our specifications - rare, medium rare and medium. The steaks were excellent, accompanied by a cream mustard sauce and cream mushroom sauce on the side. Both house-made sauces were good, and not overpowering. The tomato and purple onion salad with vinaigrette dressing was light and fresh, and a good accompaniment to the meat.
Other main courses are spare ribs (NIS 89 to 107), 500-gram lamb chops (NIS 98), 250-gram chicken steak with BBQ sauce (NIS 58) and a kid's meal of schnitzel and chips for NIS 56.
The desserts, if you have any room left, were delightful. We shared three scoops of sorbet, three different kinds of creme brulee (the pistachio was definitely worth tasting), and a light apple tart that tasted great but looked more like a pancake.
In short, a really pleasant eatery with good food. It's a little on the expensive side, but you can expect these prices at a speciality restaurant with guaranteed top-quality ingredients and excellent service.
MEAT BAR, Sderot Chen 52, Tel Aviv. Tel: (03) 695-6276. Not kosher.