Mediterranean breeze

Rokah 73, which specializes in fish and seafood, serves up the best fish soup in the country

Rokah 73 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rokah 73
(photo credit: Courtesy)
About 10 years ago, a colleague and friend of mine, who was then the food critic of a major daily newspaper, wrote a very unflattering review about a restaurant she had dinner in. At the bottom, in a box entitled “saved the day” she mentioned how the fish soup, cooked by Eyal Lavi at Pastis, had restored her faith in the local restaurants. “It was a rainy weekend,” recalls Lavi, “and there were lines of people waiting at the restaurant. I think I cooked more fish soup that day than I do in a month.” The restaurant that got the bad review had disappeared but Lavi, who moved from Pastis to his threeyear- old Rokah 73, still makes his fabulous fish soup.
It happened to be one of the few really cold nights of this winter when we got to Rokah 73, and the aroma of the famous fish soup greeted us as we walked in.
Eyal Lavi is one of the best chefs in Israel, yet he is very modest and lacks the mannerisms others, less knowledgeable,\, chefs have.
The occasion for our visit was the new menu he created for the third anniversary of his restaurant. He waited for winter to launch a special lobster menu. “The lobsters are flown in from Maine and arrive fresh,” says Lavi, “and this menu is my gift to myself for the restaurant’s anniversary.”
But we had soup on our minds and just had to start with the Mediterranean fish soup with Pastis, tomatoes and saffron (NIS 47), which was as good as we remembered from Pastis. To go with it we accepted the chef’s recommendation and ordered a bottle of white Israeli Journey from the Vitkin winery, which was fruity enough to be just perfect with the soup and the following seafood dishes.
We also got a taste of a few starters: a souffle of lobster and Parmesan with grilled vegetables (NIS 48); a wild fish ceviche with tomato, chili and cilantro (NIS 58); and a taste of the crispy calamari (NIS 54).
We were getting a little full, but lobster was the main event, so we ordered a couple of lobster specials, which were so delicious and perfectly cooked, that as full as we were, we couldn’t stop dipping the bread into the sauce.
We noticed some other fish dishes we will want to taste on another occasion, such as the sea bream filet baked in yogurt (NIS 98); and filet of drum fish stuffed with roasted eggplant, feta and basil in a tomato confit sauce (NIS 98). All main dishes are served with a choice of baked or pureed potatoes, salad or cooked vegetables.
There are a few good meat dishes as well, but this is a haven for seafood lovers.
We had one dessert, the Mascarpone cheese with kadaif pastry, which was not too sweet and a nice mixture of local and European ingredients and cooking methods, as are most of the dishes in this bistro, making Rokah 73 a perfect place to bring guests from abroad.
Chatting away with Lavi, who is a sweet, charming, and very knowledgeable man, we didn’t realize that we were the last guests and the staff were aching for us to leave, so we parted sadly, vowing to come back soon.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant Rokah 73, Tel Aviv, 057-944-3209.
Not kosher