Good taste reigns supreme

Elegant decor and an exquisite menu are the hallmarks of La Regence in the King David Hotel.

King David Hotel dinner table 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
King David Hotel dinner table 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The King David in Jerusalem is more than just a hotel, it’s a landmark architectural gem that was the scene of the struggle for independence, the place where many celebrities visiting Israel invariably choose to stay, and a hotel renowned for its elegance and sumptuous food.
La Regence is the hotel’s famed restaurant, and on a recent evening I and my companion made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to discover what a top-rated Israeli restaurant has to offer.
We had not been seated very long – at a discreet round table beautifully laid with crisp white and beige linen and embossed white and gold china – when the chef himself suddenly appeared to welcome us to his restaurant. David Biton is a young man who, we were told, never studied the art of cuisine. He has worked all over the world and acquired his skills while learning at the feet of masters. We quickly discovered his penchant for original combinations and very aesthetically presented food as one dish after another emerged from the kitchen for us to sample.
The pre-dinner gin and tonic augured well for what was to come.
Ice cold in a tall glass with just the right proportions of gin to tonic and a slice of lemon garnish, it established without a doubt that this was a place that knew its drink and, hopefully, its food.
The appetizer menu is quite extensive and offers some intriguing choices such as smoked bone marrow, mushroom ratatouille and egg yolk confit (NIS 60) and melting lamb tongue (NIS 85)..Opting for a more healthy alternative, I chose Jerusalem artichoke and leeks (NIS 70), while my husband selected the goose liver “praline” (NIS 85)..
Before our orders arrived, we were treated to a mini-taste of another starter – sea fish salad, tomato and horseradish “leather” (NIS 65), an imaginatively presented salad of sea bass cubes and fresh diced vegetables encased in a thin roll of pungently flavored “leather.”
Every so often new delights were added to the table, such as small dishes containing flavored oils and incredibly good crusty bread for dipping from the Teller Bakery. Later, three kinds of salt materialized. What with all this dipping and tasting, I was worried that we would have no appetite left for the actual food.
When my starter arrived, it turned out to be a work of art – sliced discs of Jerusalem artichoke and leeks, delicately flavored and served with a tasty leek puree and decorated with herbs and red pepper. My partner’s goose liver was slightly rare as it should be, and the pâté was creamy.
The dish came with orange jelly and caramelized sunflower seeds, both providing an original touch.
There was much more food to experience even before we reached the main course. The helpful waiter, Hezi, brought a very beautiful looking dish – a plate of olive leaves, sprigs of rosemary, lavender and pine in which nestled a fillet of salmon, smoked in the leaves and covered in coriander seeds and black pepper. It smelled and tasted wonderful. Chef Biton reappeared from the kitchen to tell us that he makes a point of presenting food in this almost sensuous way.
“I want people to touch the food,” he says.
After a small pause for a hot towel interlude, another taster appeared – lamb sweetbreads, pleasantly chewy, served with Ethiopian tehina, snow peas and demi-glace sauce. As a main dish, this would cost NIS 85. We especially liked the savory meringue slivers that came with it.
A palate cleasner of granita made with seven herbs was just what we needed. Two hours after the evening began, we reached the main course.
My baked salmon in garlic cream, white beans and cooked radish (NIS 135) was succulent and perfectly done. But my partner’s dish of lamb chops (NIS 210) was superb. I have never seen such great lamb chops, almost fat-free and full of crispy yet tender meat. The dish was also wonderfully aesthetic, served with onion curls, sweet potato discs and parsley puree.
The desserts range from NIS 45 to NIS 50. After a meal like that, the best ending would have been a little sorbet. However, we sampled an unusual fruit with vegetable salad, mildly sweet and very refreshing; nougatine with peanut butter and cocoa ganache; and lemon meringue with strawberry garnish – all superb, as expected.
The wine throughout the evening was a 2010 Chardonnay Colombard blend with a King David label. Only Israeli wines are served at the hotel.
Allowing ourselves a short time to digest while chatting to the friendly staff, we finally rolled out into the night, aware that we had partaken of a truly exceptional meal.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

La Regence Kosher King David Hotel 23 King David St., Jerusalem Tel: (02) 620-8888