Cute and delicious

Tel Aviv's Cucina Tamar celebrates truffle - the fungi of the gods - in a local interpretation of an Italian sagra festival and in addition to its already, tasty menu.

'Left, left, straight all the time, you be there." These are the average Israeli directions the lovely Noun and I encountered having lost our way en route to Cucina Tamar. As useless as they are idiotic, they do make for funny dinner conversation, clichéd as it might be. Upon our arrival, we realized that despite said directional frustrations, our night would be pleasant at worst - a good way to start an evening. Also, we were there to sample dishes for the upcoming sagra, a traditional Italian festival celebrating a singular ingredient. Starting Saturday and for the month of July, chef Tamar Cohen Tzedek pays homage to the truffle - a.k.a tartufo. We started our evening arriving at a table upstairs, having passed through the enclosed patio (with a casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere) and through the downstairs dining area (complete with window into the kitchen and bar, creating a solid youthful energy in which yuppie-types might sit alongside art-student-types). In the more secluded room that gave off the vibe of grandma-chic, we began our evening with a bottle of the house wine. It seems that it's a popular point for small Italian restaurants to have a "house wine." However, the practical reality is that a relatively cheap wine is imported and the label is removed, giving the impression that you're enjoying a bottle from the family estate. At Cucina Tamar they take a much different approach. The Solchiner Winery produces two exclusive series for the restaurant. The lovely Noun and I thoroughly enjoyed the Premium, a combination of cabernet, cabernet franc and merlot grapes. The other option was a straight merlot. In both cases the label is a standard white sticker with the name and info penned on with a Sharpie. Impressive as it is winerrific. For openers we were treated to the ravioli tartufo (NIS 52) and the misto antipasti (NIS 69). The latter, a selection of expertly sliced meats from prosciutto to salami, alongside locally produced Parmesan, roasted peppers and mushrooms and thinly sliced melon. While an absolute pleasure, the former was somewhat unbelievable. Fresh homemade pasta, filled with ricotta, Parmesan and truffles in a butter and truffle sauce. You'd have to be batty not to dig it. Tamar noted that it's "been a house specialty for years." Good on her. We also sampled a dish of Parmesan and tartufo cream with thinly sliced roast beef, bedded on a paste of anchovy and tartufo. For our main courses we enjoyed the homemade scialatelli in a leek sauce (NIS 62) and the veal scalopini (NIS 92), which consisted of a veal cinta closed in a white wine sauce of butter, sage and lemon. The lovely Noun thought this dish to be very tasty. I have no reason to disagree with her. Then came dessert. When you learn as a child that dessert is spelled with an extra 's' that represents getting seconds, it's possible that whoever makes up these mnemonic devices most likely ate at Cucina Tamar. The waitress served us what looked like and what she described as vanilla ice cream. It was a matter of seconds till our noses deciphered that this was no ordinary ice cream. Rather, as Tamar swung by to inform us, our meal was closing with truffle ice cream. The lovely Noun, who doesn't usually go for sweets, ate half of hers before handing it over to me. While I was in shock, she assured me that half a scoop of ice cream for her is like a whole carton for regular civilians. And I took no offense in the task of finishing what was left. She dreamed of the truffle ice cream that very night. Two short espressos were downed just prior to leaving. Well pulled and served in cute little grandma cups, they affirmed the conclusion we had already reached: you need to go to Cucina Tamar. Cucina Tamar - 10 Rehov Hatzfira; (03) 639-0407 - is open always till the last customer, Mon.-Thurs. from 6 p.m., Fri. from 5 p.m. and Sat. from noon. Closed Sundays; not kosher. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.