Hotel Montefiore remains at the gourmet summit of Ruti Broudo’s empire.
It is no secret that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the restaurant sector, and even celebrity restaurateur Ruti Broudo’s R2M Group has not escaped unscathed. Her popular 24/7 institution Brasserie M&R was forced to close – although it eventually rebounded somewhat, reopening partially as an outlet of her Delicatessen chain.
However, R2M has fared relatively well, on the whole. The delis did land-office delivery business during the various lockdowns, while neighborhood eatery CoffeeBar, upscale restaurant Hotel Montefiore and nightspot Herzl 16 are all thriving once again.
As a case in point, Hotel Montefiore was so full on a weekday night last week that diners in heavy coats were eating at the few tables on the cold, unheated porch of the boutique hotel. Indoors, the seating sprawls throughout all the rooms in and just off the handsomely decorated ground–floor lobby. Some of the corner seating conveys an air of romance, but the acoustics are such that crowded occupancy often interferes with intimate conversation.
We were there to witness firsthand not only how the restaurant survived the pandemic, but also to experience its rebirth under new chef Barak Hason. Hason worked his way up the R2M ladder, reaching the Hotel Montefiore pinnacle after stints at the other two aforementioned establishments.
ALL THE MENUS are bilingual, starting with the cocktail list, which features two virgin cocktails and more specialty cocktails, most of which are new creations. The fold-out international wine list is quite extensive, with a reasonable number of vintages available by the glass.
The identical lunch and dinner menus change monthly, with some individual dishes rotating daily. As well, there is a shorter all-day menu, primarily designed with hotel guests in mind.
The main menu comprises three untitled sections: Cold First Courses [including salads] (NIS 66-76), Warm First Courses (NIS 62-89) and Main Courses (NIS 89-196). Vegetarian and especially vegan options are practically non-existent.
Every meal begins with a complimentary basket of Hotel Montefiore’s signature breadsticks. Usually they are served quite warm, with a scoop of soft, spreadable butter; however, on the evening of our visit, the breadsticks were room temperature and the scoop of hard butter was cold, as if straight from the refrigerator.
Although there were tempting first courses from both opening sections, since it was winter, we elected to concentrate on hot dishes. First was a rare delicacy that is always intriguing: “Forbidden Black Rice.” This version was stunningly presented as a perfect circle of black on a large white plate, with a just visible layer of crab butter sauce underneath the black pearls of rice. The ratio of rice, butter and flecks of rich crab meat was just right, adding up to an outstanding beginning to our meal.
Next was another seafood entrée we could not resist: “Crystal Shrimps with Beet and Snow Peas in Orange Vinaigrette.” It was not easy for two people to share the portion of three plump shrimp with colorful vegetables, because of the odd number and the fact that each one of us wanted a second whole delectable crustacean.
We moved on from the sea to the land for our main courses, starting with “Sirloin” accompanied by celery cream, broccoli and kale. The sliced steak, grilled to our exact specifications, was succulent, albeit somewhat chewy. The sides of delicate celery cream, al dente broccoli and dark green kale were all tasty as well.
THE ONLY DISAPPOINTMENT of the evening was the “Duck a l’Orange,” which was overcooked and dry, with barely a hint of orange sauce or flavor. It is hard to imagine that Ruti Broudo would have approved. (Note: The February menu has retained a duck main course, but in the form of “Duck Breast Pho,” which promises to be an improvement.)
Fortunately, the desserts (NIS 48-98) – the domain of pastry chef Almaz Ibragimov – brought back the smiles that our first courses had evoked.
The unique “Lemon Shelly” – a sort of deconstructed lemon meringue pie served in a glass – has long been a staple of the Hotel Montefiore dessert menu: lemon mousse sandwiched between a cloud of meringue and a layer of crushed butter cookie crust that combines the best of the worlds of tart, custard, sweet, fluffy and crunchy into one delicious helping.
Finally, the “Apple Cinnamon Tart, Cardamom Crumble and Whipped Crème Fraîche” was a welcome novelty for us. The luscious velvety spiced fruit filling topped with buttery streusel, enhanced by the dollop of whipped cream, was as pleasing a finale as its immediate predecessor.
Hotel Montefiore (Not kosher) 36 Montefiore St., Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 564-6100.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.