The art of a good time

Rumors - the good kind - were circulating in the city regarding Kahlo's cocktails. Taking in the well stocked bar, I knew I was in for a treat.

frida kahlo bar 88 (photo credit: )
frida kahlo bar 88
(photo credit: )
As a fan of the paintings of Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, I was very excited last week to head to the Lilienblum restaurant that shares her name. Kahlo's paintings have a distinct Latin feel but borrow freely from European schools of art. She used vibrant colors, and there was always a sense of style and fun in her paintings. Her Tel Aviv namesake has done a great job living up to her name. Like her work, the food has a distinct Latin feel but is free in its use of Mediterranean influence. The bar is highly stylized without the pretension of many Tel Aviv establishments. And, there's a sense of fun with love of food and drink, something I rarely find here. Frida Kahlo is a place to be. We arrived, just as the place was opening, at the beautifully renovated building. The space was empty giving us ample opportunity to take in the impressive design of the place. The lighting is perfect for romance and the back porch adds a refreshing touch on cool evenings. We sat at the U-shaped bar, it was the closest to the booze. I was feeling frisky and ready for a wild night. Rumors - the good kind - were circulating in the city regarding Kahlo's cocktails. Taking in the well stocked bar, including prominently displayed bottles of Patron, I knew I was in for a treat. I began with a tequila drink (with lime juice, OJ, spicy red pepper and honey). The sweet and spicy drink was both tasty and invigorating leaving me wanting more. Through the night, we tried most of the cocktail offerings. All were innovative, fun and, most important, damn tasty. The highlight, I must say, was a cucumber martini. Concocted by the in-house drink-whiz, this not-always-offered beverage consists of fresh cucumber, Hendrick's gin, and lychee liquor. Later in the night we migrated from cocktail territory to a sampling of Kahlo's fine Tequilas, including the Patron Reposado and the impressively tasty Patron XO Café. It may have been the cocktails that got the night going but it's for the wonderful food that I'll return. I've always found that the most intriguing dishes at any given place are the appetizers. The folk at Frida Kahlo seem to feel the same as they offer just appetizers and desserts. This gives you the chance to sample a number of dishes or to try something small alongside your drinks. The appetizer menu is set up into three sections: veggie, seafood and meat. We began with the spectacular tomato carpaccio, a lovely dish for a warm summer evening. All the seafood was fresh and well cooked. The decided highlight was the calamari la plancha, with a smoky and spicy flavor. Cooked to perfection, the dish was complex yet accessible. I should point out that I'm not usually a fan of calamari. Our meat dishes included the excellent duck breast and a dish of three mini burgers. Though small, the tiny trio was packed with flavor. True, the food menu is interesting and varied with much to offer but it is the desserts that really impressed. Every dessert we tried was sensational. But, there is one that deserves special mention. I have railed against the chocolate soufflé, ubiquitous in Tel Aviv's restaurant scene for a long time now. It's overdone, poorly prepared and there's nothing exiting about it. However, Kahlo's Chocolate Volcano was wonderful, despite the kitsch name. The chocolate was dark and slightly bitter, eschewing the usual over-the-top sweetness found in other incarnations. And, it was perfectly cooked, oozing chocolaty goodness from its molten center. All the other dessert options are well worth a taste, too. Frida Kahlo was a real treat. I love the Latin tones that are sorely missed here in Tel Aviv. The menu set-up gives the diner freedom to taste many dishes, making for a great experience. The setup is perfect for both intimate encounters and exciting nights out with friends. Frida Kahlo, it seems, has mastered the art of a great time. Frida Kahlo is located at 43 Lilienblum St., Tel Aviv, (03) 566-0481. Open seven days a week from 7 p.m. till 4 a.m. All cocktails are NIS 36; appetizers from NIS 30-40; and, desserts are all NIS 29; not kosher.