A restaurant with a concept

Cabina is not a place to eat and run, but to sit and enjoy.

Cabina (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The last place I would have expected to have a sophisticated and original meal would have been on a Tel Aviv beach. And at a restaurant with a name like Cabina, no less! Some of the food served was nothing short of brilliant. Everything was interesting - the surroundings with the waves lapping onto the sand 100 meters away, the youngsters playing handball and the concept. Cabina is into that new Hebrew buzzword for restaurants - “sharing.”
Although one of the four owners, Ronen Arditi, a veteran restaurateur, says he dislikes the word “concept,” there is no denying that Cabina has one. “It’s free, flowing and includes the sea,” he says.
Einat Lubaton, the manager, says.
“We want people to taste many things, tapas-style, and the reasonable prices make this possible.”
Another important reason for the promise of Cabina, which has been open for just two weeks, is the man in the kitchen - a young Israeli chef named Tom Cook (really!) who, after studies at Tadmor, worked under Moshe Roth in Holland, the only Israeli chef to have garnered Michelin stars.
Cook has imbibed much from his master, and the Dutch influence is strong – but he is clearly a very creative and talented force in the restaurant.
Strangely though, the evening got off to a bad start, as I had to walk down two flights of grubby back stairs to reach the restaurant. It is attached to the Crown Plaza Hotel on the Yarkon front. The sooner they open an entrance through the hotel, the better for everyone. A beautifully served and generous gin and tonic did much to dispel the bad vibes.
My husband, who parked the car at Kikar Atarim, only had to walk a few meters across the sand to reach Cabina and was rewarded with a whiskey and ginger ale.
And so to the food. First to arrive – we left all the choices to the knowledgeable Lubaton – was a dark crispy loaf with a soft inside, which was perfect for sampling the dips – tehina, red pepper cream and a salad of julienned carrot and fennel – all good, albeit conventional (NIS 16).
Then the tabouleh arrived, and the food began to get very interesting.
Chef Cook, all of 23 years old, makes it not from traditional bulgar but from ground raw cauliflower. In every other way it resembles classic tabouleh, with loads of herbs, parsley, coriander and mint, diced tomatoes and a piquant dressing. It was absolutely delicious and had almost zero calories (NIS 32).
Accompanying this was the most delicious pungent spread that looked like humous but which, when eaten, turned into an explosion of tastes on the palate. It was so good that we asked for more, although we couldn’t identify what it was. This was another Tom Cook creation – made from tehina and cooked cauliflower.
Two fish dishes were brought to our table, both excellent. The first was amnon fillets on a potato puree base with almonds and a pink grapefruit gel dotted around the plate as garnish (NIS 69). The second – cubes of very fresh salmon, lightly seared - came with tossed spinach, black olive tapenade and garlic cream (NIS 64). Luckily, they were just tastes, as we were beginning to feel very full.
It was time to sample some meat dishes. The first, and probably the piece de resistance of the restaurant, was short ribs which, we were told, were cooked for three days in Coca- Cola. The meat was very soft and coming off the bone; the gravy was indescribably delicious (NIS 68).
I sampled the piping hot jumbo chips (fries), which came with a dipping sauce of aioli flavored with whiskey. Fries in mayonnaise are very Dutch, but adding a whiskey flavor is a stroke of genius.
The other meat dish sampled was less to our taste. Pastilla envelopes of filo pastry filled with chopped chicken and dried fruits (NIS 42). It looked for all the world like a blintz with chocolate sauce which, in fact, was a tangy reduced pomegranate garnish.
Desserts vary at every meal, so there is no dessert menu. We had a pina colada, which was rum mousse with fresh pineapple and coconut sorbet – very refreshing. The chocolate mousse was a deluxe one, very rich and topped with vanilla sauce and crumble. It was very imaginatively presented in a white ceramic planter, topped with a sprig of mint (NIS 34).
The restaurant offers various seating arrangements – a bar, open tables or the booths where we were sitting, which provide privacy and comfort.
In another week or so they plan to open an air-conditioned room inside the hotel, which will be a welcome alternative to the cool sea breezes.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Cabina (Kosher) Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 523-6762 Open from 6 p.m.