Where the food is as dreamy as the location

Tucked away in an old stone house in one of Jaffa's hidden alleyways, Cordelia is at the forefront of the Israeli culinary scene.

Dining out has always been about much more than eating. It's the greeting, the seating, the presentation of the menus, the swirling of the wine, the parade of plates and the arrival of the celebrity chef.

Cordelia, named after King Lear's faithful youngest daughter, is home to creative chef Nir Zook and, when it comes to the many elements of a positive dining experience, the place is a case in point.

Tucked away in an old stone house in one of Jaffa's hidden alleyways, Cordelia is at the forefront of the Israeli culinary scene.

With candlelit tables, Crystal chandeliers hung from high ceilings and a collection of eclectic ornaments from Jaffa's and other flea markets around the world, the d cor alone is enough to make the restaurant a supremely relaxing experience. But the best part is that the food is as dreamy as the location.

The menu is based on French cuisine and enlivened with Mediterranean accents and the freshest possible local produce. For Zook, it is an ongoing challenge to take advantage of seasonal ingredients, but he has proven successful so far, with the end result being an array of exciting and innovative dishes.

To show off his talent, Zook offers a degustation: a tasting menu that changes monthly and consists of seven small dishes in which the chef gives a taste of the restaurant's most fascinating dishes. For a fixed price of NIS 180, this is one of Tel Aviv's finest dining experiences.

There were nine starters to choose between, and all of them sounded tempting. We began with a red mullet served with a crispy cucumber salad, and a beet and almond sandwich as our other starter. They both tasted splendid and melted in our mouths.

For the main course, we had a perfectly cooked beef fillet with a porcini pastry in lamb sauce. The whole thing was beautifully executed, and the beef was very moist, with delicate flavors that added a wonderful freshness.

Our other dish of semi-smoked salmon was served artistically, and the delicate grape sauce added to the brilliant combination of tastes.

After two courses we were happy to continue onto a third, due to the lightness and freshness of the cooking.

For desserts there were seven dishes to choose from, including an outstanding apple brandied chocolate and cardamom ice cream in a sauce of caramel, or a unique pate of marzipan with mango.

The vibe in Cordelia is warm, and the service is highly attentive and polite, with many staffers on hand to please Nir Zook's eager crowd.

Cordelia. 1 Simtat Hazchuchit, Jaffa. Open daily noon to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m to midnight. Business lunch (NIS 180 per couple) is served Sunday to Friday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Tel: (03) 518-4668. (not kosher)

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