Provincial Southern French cuisine in a charming atmosphere overlooking tennis courts at a country club? Must be Tel Aviv's Rokach 73.
By KEN MCBRIDE
Chef Eyal Lavie looks like the guy you want cooking your food. A bit plump (let it be known that skinny chefs are a discriminated against bunch), bald (no chance of hair in your food - if that kind of thing really bothers you) and all-smiles (like he knows a great, culinary secret that he's excited to share with you).
For some time I had been meaning to make it out to Lavie's Rokach 73. Inconveniently located, for us carless heroes, on, well, 73 Rokach St., it turns out that an absurd ride on a Dan bus is worth it. Be on the lookout for the tennis greens since the bus does not take you directly to this special location.
The occasion for my visit was the French Revolution - the menu, not the revolution. Lavie has channeled the classic French kitchen into his own, making available an impressive selection of first and main courses, of which the diner picks one of each for NIS 120. The menu also features a delightful caricature of him in Napoleonic garb.
My male dining partner and I sampled a few items in your service, dear faithful reader.
First to arrive was the bread course - some lovely home backed treasures - with very tasty accompaniments: a tomato puree with olive oil, lentils with tomato and pickled cabbage and carrots. Then, we eagerly received the Oefs en Cocotte (poached egg in a mushroom ragu and cheese served with a marrow bone and green asparagus); a bruschetta with a mackerel and anchovy paste served with a salad of tomato, turnip and arugula; and baby scallops with spinach, bacon and Parmesan.
All were delicious, though both my date and I thought the first and third of the trio our favorites. We also mentioned to each other, over the wonderful Dalton Winery 2007 Fume Blanc (kosher), how we had been hoping to sample the crab bisque in cream and brandy. Mind meld! Sure enough, we were treated to an intermezzo of espresso cups filled with this most wonderful substance - reason enough alone to visit Rokach.
Our main courses were a dish of shrimp, calamari and mussels in white wine, garlic, celery and lemon and the cassola of black lentils with smoked pork ribs and chicken with grilled polenta. The latter impressed us both, reminding me of the cholent I'd often eat on Saturdays at the Chabad house back in my university days.
The Seahorse 2006 Felini was interesting enough, though I've never really been a fan of this winery.
We finished our meal with the dessert sampler (NIS 48), an additional element to the French Revolution menu. An apple crumble and raspberry cream on chocolate were nice but what really whet the goat was the profiterole with vanilla ice cream and marscapone cheese on kadiff with strawberries. Can you say yum?
Another addition to the special menu are the alcohol choices of cava (NIS 12/glass), house wine (NIS 15/glass and NIS 58/carafe), the monthly wine (NIS 25/glass), and aperitif of Bushmill's with either sour or orange slice (NIS 18) and dessert wine (NIS 12/glass). And, if you take the bus you can try them all.
Rokach 73 - 73 Rokach St., TA (03) 744-8844 is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. till midnight; not kosher. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
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