Tel Aviv's West Side Restaurant: A meal to remember - review

It’s a top-notch chef restaurant, where young chef Omri Cohen has worked his magic for the last seven years since joining the staff straight after his army service.

 A meal to remember at the West Side Restaurant in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
A meal to remember at the West Side Restaurant in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)

There’s always a warm welcome at the West Side Restaurant in Tel Aviv’s Royal Beach Hotel. Although it’s a top-notch chef restaurant, where young chef Omri Cohen has worked his magic for the last seven years since joining the staff straight after his army service, it’s homelike, cozy and intimate.

We arrived one windy evening recently to find the dining room almost full – no tourists, of course, but sophisticated Israeli couples out for a special meal. The glass-topped tables and comfy tub chairs make one feel instantly at home. The lighting is flattering, but you can still see the food – a perfect arrangement.

There’s also a strong emphasis on presentation which is always a little different from the conventional. And prolific use of dry ice, which produces billows of smoke in such quantities that my husband wondered about calling the fire brigade!

We studied the cocktail menu and picked our preferences. Mine, dubbed “Middle East,” consisting of gin, mango juice, fresh lime and basil (NIS 51), was only mildly alcoholic but tasted OK. My companion’s “Boulevardier” was the opposite, a heady combination of Campari, martini and Bourbon, which packed a much higher amount of the hard stuff, but cost less (NIS 47).

As it was a very cold night, we thought a hot mushroom soup would go down well, but before it arrived the chef had already sent out an hors d’oeuvre in the shape of two soft brioches topped with fresh tuna and salad in a very lemony sauce, together with a thimbleful of tart gazpacho on the side. A very satisfying start to what promised to be a great meal (NIS 56).

  A meal to remember at the West Side Restaurant in Tel Aviv. (credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO) A meal to remember at the West Side Restaurant in Tel Aviv. (credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)

We were now ready for the soup “show,” and I use the term advisedly. A tray covered in a white linen cloth appeared at our table. The soup was in tea cups, complete with saucers and garnished with fried chips of Jerusalem artichokes. Included on the tray was a teapot, in case one wanted more soup, and a bowl of what looked like kreplach or ravioli nestling in a meat consommé. It looked great and tasted even better – a rich earthy flavor suitable to a vegetable that never goes far from the ground.

Next to appear was a salad of mixed leaves and endive with nuts and chunks of pomelo. The dressing was especially good, but I failed to identify its elusive flavor.

No sooner had we finished this than another visitor showed up at our table, Otto, in charge of alcoholic drinks and with a Rasputin-like big black bushy beard. He concocted a special drink for us – Bourbon, strawberry juice, lemon and Martini Rossi. It was very good, powerful, but fortunately a very small amount.

After this pause it was time for the mains. Alex picked his perennial favorite – lamb chops. Three very splendid specimens arrived, lots of meat, no fat and perfectly grilled. The garnish was pomegranate and mint, with stuffed onion skins (NIS 210). My choice was duck breast, two large perfect rectangles of meat which had the texture of cake and – forgive the cliché – melted in the mouth. Glazed carrots rounded off the dish (NIS 118).

We tried to take only one dessert between us, but Omri was having none of this. The first arrived in a small goldfish bowl and was a scrumptious amalgam of rich chocolate brownie, crème pâtissière and caramelized banana. The second was a mix of tropical fruits and four different sorbets, and the colors of this dish stood out as much as the tastes (all desserts NIS 56).

Feeling pleasantly full but not bursting, we left Tel Aviv for the drive home with unforgettable memories of an outstanding meal.

West SideRoyal Beach Hotel19 Hayarkon StreetTel AvivTel. (03) 740-5054Open: Sun.-Thurs., 7 p.m.-11 p.m.; Friday, Saturday – closed.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.