Pushkin offers the best of modern European cuisine for discerning diners.
By NERIA BARR
The owners may not have been thinking of Pushkin the poet when they named their restaurant in Tel Aviv, but they surely must have had the upscale Moscow eatery in mind. Under the auspices of chef Gilad Peled, Pushkin offers a very sophisticated, ambitious and sumptuous Frenchstyle menu with some local touches.Peled, a Cordon Bleu graduate, returned to Israel after specializing at topnotch Michelin-starred restaurants. Prior to his return to Israel, he worked at renowned chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in London.We imagined that the place would be swarming with oligarchs, so in spite of the very hot and humid weather, my companion had put on a jacket. As it turned out, he was the only one who was so formally dressed. All the other tables were occupied by the local Tel Aviv business crowd, dressed in their casual best, in addition to some tourists and a few young lovers.We chose to explore the chef’s abilities by ordering the tasting menu (NIS 199 per person). Our charming and knowledgeable waiter suggested that we have a glass of Cava to start with, followed by a red Kedem from the Avdat winery. The red wine was poured into our glasses to breathe, while we enjoyed the bubbly.We then were served a basket of fragrant freshly baked bread, accompanied by a warning not to eat too much because “There is a lot of food coming your way.”We understood but couldn’t resist.Like all the diners that evening, we received an amuse bouche, a complimentary bite-size dish that often becomes the showcase for the artistry of the chef. It was a clear, aromatic tomato consommé, poured at the table over very thin slices of asparagus, tiny cherry tomatoes and basil flowers. It was one of the best dishes of the evening.Then the food started arriving – and there was, indeed, a lot of it.Usually in tasting menus the dishes are very small. Here they weren’t, and we had to keep reminding ourselves that didn’t have to finish everything on our plates.The first dish was smoked salmon a la minute. It was served in glass bowls filled with smoke from tea leaves, which evaporated as soon as the waiter removed the cover. It was followed by veal tartar, which was prepared to perfection and served over porcini purée.Then came a bright green pea risotto with baby garden vegetables (excellent), veal filet slices with saffron, freshly made spaghetti in porcini sauce, and a surprise dish of duck confit spring roll with sauteéd foie gras. It was fantastic.Just when we thought we could not eat another bite, in came the desserts: chocolate mousse in a shot glass topped with ginger foam, and star anise brulèe with raspberry sorbet and mango cream.Returning to my table after a brief visit to the small (but very organized and well-equipped) kitchen, where I had a chat talk with the chef, who gave me some of his shopping tips and told me that he recently started growing herbs in the back garden of this urban restaurant, I discovered that a plate of petit fours had been brought to the table.The small pastries looked much too beautiful to eat – but we tasted them.After avoiding the well-stocked bar and cigar box, we decided to walk home – and vowed to fast the next day.PushkinNot kosher27 Montefiore St., Tel AvivTel: (03) 525-1501
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