Summer in Brittany

Bagnolet is a little bit of heaven this side of France.

Bagnolet (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With lush green countryside, jagged cliffs dropping into the sea, sandy beaches and historic towns, Brittany is a great European destination for food and history lovers alike. The French region’s famous dishes include seafood, lamb, salads and many other delicacies, all of which one does not expect to find at a restaurant located in the rugged, concrete-smeared edges of Tel Aviv’s old bus station area. But that is exactly where Kobi Katz, the chef of Bagnolet, took inspiration for his new summer menu.
Katz, an expert in French cooking, serves a modern and creative take on the French-Bretagne cuisine, and he creates magic.
Designed in an elegant manner, with soft, cream-colored seats, dark tables, a well-stocked bar and urban chic, Bagnolet is a haven away from the shabby street.
Almost the first thing we noticed when we walked in was the music. In most trendy places in Tel Aviv, the music is always too loud and not very appealing. Here, the soundtrack was chosen carefully, consisting of soft jazz and French oldies, a perfect accompaniment to excellent wine and seductive food.
Katz, who comes from Bagnolet (a commune in the Parisian suburbs), moved to Israel after studying at the Cordon Bleu school and working in France, and then in some of the top restaurants in Israel. Today, he is the chef and founder of his own Bagnolet, where he serves very original but extremely French creations.
In line with the Brittany cuisine, a large part of the menu consists of seafood, of which we first sampled a dish of salmon and corvina ceviche with apricots, pineapple and vanilla oil, scallops and creme brulee. Sounds strange? Well, everything at Bagnolet surprises the palate. Katz’s combinations are at times puzzling to say the least, yet somehow they work wonders.
The next dish – seared calamari, served over pea puree and black sauce – was tasty and rustic. But our favorite of the seafood dishes was the galette de sarrasin – a buckwheat crepe filled with salmon, poached egg and salmon caviar. It was heavenly.
Other dishes from the summer menu include garden vegetables in a champagne and Camembert vinaigrette; roasted chicken in cider, a specialty from Brittany (Rogens au cider), served with mushroom, artichoke and Calvados; and clams in a lovely curry sauce.
Another highlight was the mushroom souffle with truffles, goat cheese, herb cream and sugared pear.
Here, too, the magic is in the way that Katz manages to assemble all these unlikely components and create a small wonder in the mouth.
The chef insisted we at least look at the beef tartare with foie gras, sauteed livers in cherry sauce and a dish of polenta with truffles and Parmesan.
There are many delicious desserts, of which we tasted only the fruit gratin. To tell the truth, I only looked at the desserts, not wanting to wash away the taste of the tartare; but my companion, who in spite of her declarations that she was full, actually finished it and said it was delicious.
Other desserts include classic Brittany dishes such as plum cake, which I am sure to try when I next frequent Bagnolet.
For those who want to try this exciting cuisine, chef Katz is offering a very good deal on fixed dinners all week, consisting of first and main dishes for NIS 96 – NIS 126. It’s a bargain. If you don’t want to take up that offer, most starters are large enough for two to share if separate mains are in question.
All the dishes on the new summer menu are prepared with great care and attention to detail, offering new tastes and surprising combinations that are cooked in the best of French cuisine style and make for a truly special experience.
The service was very friendly, our waitress knew every ingredient in every dish and kept telling us not to be afraid of the the strange combinations. She was right.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Bagnolet Not kosher 14 Hasharon Street, Tel Aviv, corner of Harakevet Tel: 057-942-6875 Open Sunday – Saturday from noon to 3 a.m.