Claro: A Golan Heights special in Tel Aviv - review

Tel Aviv’s Claro restaurant introduces a special Golan Heights month, with a menu based on local suppliers

 Claro (photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Claro
(photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)

From a rich variety of berries through locally grown real wasabi, rare goat cheeses, special honeys and beef cuts from cattle that roam free, the Golan Heights, with its special topography and climate, is one of Israel’s most interesting culinary areas. 

Claro’s head chef and owner Ran Shmueli together with acting chef Tal Feigenbaum created a special menu (which will be served until July 20) for the Tel Aviv restaurant, which includes seasonal ingredients grown in the northern Golan Heights. To build this special menu, the team joined forces with small producers, private dairies, farmers and foodtech initiatives, as well as local small wineries and breweries, and together they built a menu based on some of the best ingredients available in the country, a menu that tells the intriguing story of the Golan Heights during the summer. 

“The concept of terroir, usually linked to the world of wine, means earth. However, what it really includes is the earth and the local agriculture, the animals and, of course, the climate.”

Ran Shmueli

Committed to the farm-to-table idea, they decided to look even deeper into the idea of terroir. “The concept of terroir, usually linked to the world of wine, means earth. However, what it really includes is the earth and the local agriculture, the animals and, of course, the climate,” says Shmueli. “After spending years deciphering the idea of farm-to-table, we feel we are ready for the next stage, in which we will focus on an area in Israel and give it the utmost attention.” 

Innovative menu

The menu is innovative and delicious, offering modern takes on classic dishes made with the best ingredients available. From starters to desserts, the menu includes freshly picked cherries, raspberries and blackberries, excellent beef, exciting greens, goat cheeses, fresh wasabi, flavorful honeys, wines and liquors from small wineries and breweries.

 Claro (credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO) Claro (credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)

Claro, a rare phenomenon in Tel Aviv, is one of our favorite restaurants for special occasions. 

One of the most elegant and well-designed restaurants, the service here is flawless. All the staff – and there are many of them – are knowledgeable, welcoming and very efficient. You never have to look for a waiter or wait for a dish – the meal flows in the tempo that you set, and the dishes arrive exactly when you want them – and you do want them. 

The menu includes a few special cocktails and we sipped one called Clara – made with whisky from a local brewery, syrup made from roasted fresh apricots, mint and basil and lemon. Delicious. (NIS 52).

Together with the cocktail, we got a cracker made with fennel seeds, topped with roasted apricots, goat cheese, vinaigrette and fresh thyme, and a small piece of organic honeycomb. The combination was perfect and the flavors so good we could not wait for what was coming. 

Our first dish from the menu was roast beef, cherry mostarda (a classical Italian cherry jam), strawberries and cherries with mustard powder and green pepper, served with a salad of spicy greens (NIS 74). It was excellent. The fruit complemented the beef and the seasoning was perfect. Again, true to their culinary vision, the dish offered classical flavors and cooking methods, with innovative touches. 

We couldn’t try everything on the menu so we sadly skipped other interesting dishes such as local camembert-style cheese wrapped with vine leaves and roasted in the oven, served with grilled peaches, lavender honey and honey from raspberry (NIS 66), and moved on to our next dish. It was sashimi of red bonito fish (called “palamida” in Israel), served with mango as well as fresh wasabi leaves and root. I have to admit that I had never before tasted fresh wasabi (not to be confused with the green paste served with sushi, which in almost all cases is really horseradish with green coloring), and it was surprisingly delicate, flavorful and added just the right “bite” to the dish. The red slices of the fish were fresh and melted in my mouth, and the mango wasn’t too sweet. I hope this dish will stay on the regular menu after the special month is over (NIS 74).

We also had a dish of asparagus, which is now in season, with what the menu calls “Cuban” cheese and za’atar, served with green apple salsa (NIS 78). I love fresh asparagus and try to enjoy the short season when available. Here the asparagus was very flavorful, the apple salsa added just enough acidity and the cheese was mild and a bit chewy. The combination worked perfectly, the dish was very much a French bistro type yet it had enough local ingredients (the cheese and za’atar) to give it the necessary twist. 

We only had room for one item from the main-dish menu and decided to try the shishbarak.

Shishbarak, a dish from the local Arab cuisine, are usually lamb dumplings cooked in a garlic yogurt sauce. Here the chef decided to turn things around, or actually inside out. The Claro shishbarak dumplings were more like ravioli, stuffed with labaneh cheese and za’atar, served with a lamb stew in classic French demi-glace sauce, with grated kashk (dried yogurt balls). Very rich and full of flavors, it was a winning dish. (NIS98).

We took a break. Too full to even think of dessert. Thankfully, despite the fact that the restaurant was almost completely full, no one tried to kick us out. We had time to look around, relax and enjoy the moment before it was time to choose the desserts. 

After about 15 minutes, and a short talk with the lovely pastry chef, we chose the Paris-Brest cake with sour cream Chantilly sauce, raspberry marmalade, marzipan and fresh berries (NIS 66). I loved the cream and the fruit, the cake was dense, as it should be, and the flavor of the marzipan, which I love, was noticeable and delicious. Across the table, my partner sampled another yummy dessert – the fruit panna cotta served on a crispy kadaif pastry with mango sauce and seasonal fruit (NIS54). A dish as pretty and festive as it was delicious. 

It was a perfect evening – elegant yet relaxed, with amazingly good food and excellent service. Can we say perfect? Yes, it was. We cannot wait until our next visit here. I hope that it will be soon.

ClaroNot kosher23 Ha’arbaa Street (corner of David Elazar), Tel Aviv(03) 601-7777http://clarotlv.com/

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.