Making olive oil into an art form

The new menu at La Régence at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem transforms fine dining into refined dining.

La Régence at the King David Hotel (photo credit: Courtesy)
La Régence at the King David Hotel
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Already reputed to be one of the foremost kosher restaurants in the country, La Régence at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem raises fine dining to the level of refined dining with its new avant-garde olive oil tasting menu (NIS 180).
Consisting of 13 exquisite samplers, the menu, created by the hotel’s executive chef David Biton, is a tour de force of culinary craft and creativity.
To showcase one of his favorite ingredients, the 29-year-old chef uses six different types of olive oil, ranging from light and mild to pungent and powerful, to exhibit their variety and versatility. On this menu, Biton uses Souri (Lebanon), Arbequina (Spain), Picholine (France), Picual (Spain), Koroneiki (Greece) and Leccino (Italy) olive oils to create some truly exceptional dishes. The tasting menu is being offered until the end of August, but several of the dishes are on the restaurant’s regular a la carte menu as well.
A purist to a fault, Biton says he uses only fresh seasonal products and flavors in his kitchen, never resorting to any additives such as margarine, soup powders or even dried spices. He says that olive oil is one of his preferred resources because the many varieties can be used in anything from appetizers to desserts. Hence, the tasting menu consists of flavorful morsels of inspired starters, succulent main dishes and innovative desserts.
And so, in the understated elegance of the art deco restaurant, with its highly polished dark wooden floors and furniture and stately marble features, my dining companion and I set out to savor the chef’s extraordinary offerings.
We started with the golden quail egg yolk toffee truffle amuse bouche. This little round soupçon on a soup spoon consisted of a light quail egg filling encrusted with toffee and topped with a dab of black truffle. Talk about amusing the bouche, the delicate interior melted in my mouth, while the crunchy coating crackled in my teeth.
This was followed by what was called a chicken sandwich on the menu, but it looked like a little vanilla-filled wafer on the plate and tasted nothing like chicken on the palate. The white flan filling infused with chicken stock was, in fact, sandwiched between two crisp paper-thin, golden-colored slivers of chicken. Ten out of 10 for technique.
Next came the bone marrow polenta and lentils. This outstanding dish was served like soup in an egg shell, accompanied by a small black mound of something sweet, light and spongy.
The ensuing appetizers, each beautifully plated and expertly prepared, were tomato leather filled with sea fish salad, eggplant oil and tomato gelée; Galilee trout smoked with cypress branches; seared black cod, whipped fennel thassos and olive cream; and roasted beetroot flan and salty meringue.
As part of the tasting experience, the knowledgeable wait staff gave us a lesson in olive oil. Presented with little dishes of the six oils used on the menu, ascending from mild to pungent, we sampled a small spoonful of each and learned to discern the nuances of the condiments’ depth and diversity.
Thus armed with such valuable information, we went on to enjoy the three flavorful main dishes, served in a minimal but masterful manner. These were chicken, lamb tongue and veal. The organic chicken roulade was poached in olive and truffle oil, with grated goose liver. The lamb tongue was served with black garlic cream and wafer-thin chips, while the veal sirloin confit was accompanied by parsley puree and a spinach cracker.
For dessert, the chef whipped up an herb granita; a dark and delicious chocolate soufflé; and cooked apple slices with burnt sugar and olive oil sablee. And the icing on the cake, so to speak, was a little silver candy dish that bore two dark chocolates and two light brown cake nuggets in the shape of a seashell. As I bit into one of the chocolates, a liquid came oozing out. Not liqueur or jam or cream filling, it was olive oil! Douze points to the chef.
As I mentioned, this fascinating foray into taste and technique will be held until the end of August, so if you’d like to savor the intricate flavor of olive oil, head to the King David before it’s all over.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
La Régence Kosher King David Hotel 23 King David St, Jerusalem Tel: (02) 620-8795