Old-world charm with a new-food approach

A Tel Aviv institution, Cafe Noir now serves more than its legendary schnitzel.

Cafe Noir 520 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cafe Noir 520
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Looking very much like a Parisian bistro, both from the outside and the inside, with black trimmings and cream-colored walls, heavy furniture, mirrors, lamps, a huge blackboard and classical decor, the Cafe Noir has become a local establishment, very popular with the business lunch crowds, as well as romantic couples at night and large parties of girlfriends on birthday celebrations and other special occasions. There is almost always a line of people outside waiting for their table, as there is no room to wait inside (I am told that will change soon, when they take over the recently evacuated space next door).
For many years, Cafe Noir has been known for as “best schnitzel in town.” The schnitzel, both the veal and the chicken, is very thin and crispy, and it is so generous that it covers the whole plate. But with chef Shai Caspi in the kitchen, the menu now offers so much more.
There is a very rich breakfast menu, such as egg cocotte with truffles, roasted vegetables and other rich dishes, and daily specials for lunch and dinner.
But we decided to sample the new dishes on the menu. We started with the sea-fish ceviche, which is served with tehina and chili, with bruschetta on the side, making it an Italian-Israeli dish that is both fresh and spicy and altogether very good and well balanced. Across the table, my companion ordered a plate of beef carpaccio with olive oil and Parmesan. We were given a taste of one of the specials – the shrimp and calamari dish, which is served with Jerusalem artichoke and yogurt and is an excellent seafood dish that is both light, tasty and everything you might expect from a restaurant that serves what we can only call international modern cuisine.
For the main dish, I ordered the lamb chops and was not disappointed. It was the best dish of the evening. The lamb was very tender, juicy and cooked in a lamb consomme, served with roasted vegetables – artichoke, fennel, onion and carrot – and brushed with garlic confit (NIS 142). My companion ordered the grilled sea bream fillet (NIS 106), which was served with garden vegetables – purple, white and regular carrots, shallots and green beans. It was very fresh and satisfying.
For a beverage, we decided to pamper ourselves with a half bottle of Chablis (always our first choice), and we shared a dessert – the new cannoli with Mascarpone cheese (NIS 39).
Cafe Noir will probably continue to be a very popular place among locals. It feels as if it were always there, and we know we will continue to go there on special occasions and, well, whenever we feel like we deserve it.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Cafe Noir. Not kosher. 43 Ahad Ha’am St. Tel Aviv, (03) 566-3018. Open every day from 9 a.m. to after midnight.