The New York experience

For those looking for a no-frills but high-quality steak meal, a visit to Porterhouse in Tel Mond is well worth the trip.

Porterhouse 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Porterhouse 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
As the restaurant’s name suggests, PorterHouse is a steak house. And why not? In good times and bad, high times and low, the steak house endures. Especially when it serves excellent meat to a knowledgeable clientele. The venerable, time-worn genre, invented in New York (home of the porterhouse cut), a steak house is where you go when you are really hungry and nothing other than meat and potatoes will satisfy that hunger.
After a few disappointing sorry-excuses- for-steaks that were served to us by well-meaning friends at several Independence Day barbecue parties, we needed to taste the real McCoy. That’s when we decided to make the trip to Tel Mond’s PorterHouse. For residents of the area, including Kfar Saba and Ra’anana, getting into the car and driving 15 minutes to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere may seem like an everyday thing. For us, who live in the center of Tel Aviv, going out usually means a 15-minute walk. So it was only the superlatives we heard about this place that clinched our decision to make the 30- minute trip on a Saturday night to the small industrial park near Tel Mond in the Sharon area.
PorterHouse is decorated simply, in shades of yellow with wooden beams and dark furniture. There’s none of that fashionable highly polished Tel Aviv design. This is the country – and it looks it. The grill area is connected to the bar, and patrons can sit salivating while watching their steak being grilled to perfection. The inside dining room is quiet and the tables are not too close, overlooking the parking area. There are a few tables outside, perhaps for those who need to smoke. The view is not what you come here for.
A plate with garlic confit (cloves baked in oil), liver spread and olives was served with freshly baked bread before we ordered. To accompany it we asked for a bottle of the house red, which was a limited edition 2007 Shiraz-Cabernet, produced especially for the PorterHouse by Tulip. There is a rich beer menu, topped with the original British namesake Porter beer. At most steak restaurants, one is plied with an array of salads and appetizers before getting to the main attraction, and it’s no different here. For chef and owner Yossi Assraf, this does not seem to be a problem. He trained at the Cordon Bleu, was a private chef in Paris and later worked in a few of Tel Aviv’s best restaurants that specialize in French cooking before settling with his current carnivorous passion.
The chef has created a few good starters, the best of which we thought was the shrimp Cajun served in a basket with a few sauces on the side. The shrimp was crisp, coated with Japanese bread crumbs and deep fried. The only complaint we had was that it was much too large a portion for a starter. The Caesar salad, another recommended starter, was made with seared heart of lettuce, chicken breast and Parmesan cheese. It would make a good option for a diner who wants to avoid beef, but again far too generous as an appetizer. If you do take starters, one for two or three diners will be more than enough.
The beef on the menu at PorterHouse is straightforward and excellent. Most steak houses in Israel serve veal. There are many reasons for that, which I will not bore you with, but the taste is notably different. If what you’re longing for is the taste you may remember from the best steak houses in New York, such as Peter Luger or Palms, this is as close to it as you will get in Israel. Despite the fact that Assraf knows everything you might (or might not) want to know about meat growing, purchasing and preparing, there are no notations on the menu denoting what the cow was fed. But the enthusiastic waiters will insist that you understand exactly what cut you are ordering and what is the best way to prepare it.
The restaurant’s one gimmick is the profusion of American-style cuts on the menu, and it actually sort of works. We ordered the signature beef T-bone porterhouse steak for two, which is an inch-thick cut with sirloin on one side of the bone and fillet on the other (NIS 255). The meat was deliciously charred and rich with fatty flavor, and as we chewed our meal, my dining companion tipped his head back and rolled his eyes with a kind of mad carnivore’s glee. We had two side dishes – a classic baked potato and Swiss chard wrapped in paper and steamed in the oven. Perfect if you are on a low-carb diet.
The dessert menu is not huge, but those with a sweet tooth will find what they’re looking for. And again, the portions are very generous, so don’t be tempted to order more than one.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher PorterHouse, Bnei Dror 8, Industrial Park, Tel Mond (09) 796-9666