Head chef Omri Cohen, of Tel Aviv’s Royal Beach Hotel’s flag restaurant West Side, celebrated his restaurant’s 10-year anniversary with a 12-dish tasting menu, bringing his vision and his best dishes to the table.
At sunset, amid national upheaval and very close to a demonstration near the US Embassy, a group of food journalists was invited to West Side to try the new tasting menu.
Entering the place at sunset, the restaurant was painted orange by beautiful golden rays. We were invited to sip cocktails on the porch, looking out at the setting sun and stealing a peaceful moment so rare these days.
A rare peaceful moment in Tel Aviv
Cohen’s cuisine is based on fresh, locally grown ingredients, combining traditional Jewish North African and local cuisines with modern approaches and French cooking techniques. Proud of his restaurant’s creative solutions to kosher restrictions, Cohen offers real gourmet dishes with no compromises.
The centennial tasting menu opened with a bite-size almond pastry cracker with Moroccan carrot salad – a wonderful appetizer served with the first glass of white wine. Two starters that followed were a very tasty Tunisian Brioche sandwich – with Ortiz tuna, egg-yolk cream, and pickled lemon, served with a shot of gazpacho. Yummy.
The other starter was a chickpea filled sambusak pastry, served with a “brush” of bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs) and shipka pepper vinaigrette. We were asked to dip the brush in the vinaigrette and rub the sambusak. We did, and it was delicious.
Even though it was a tasting menu the dishes were almost normal size, so we began to feel quite full, even before the main dishes.
Next came albacore tuna served with cherries, pickled tomato, and celery, another perfect dish for a tasting menu, and a lovely fillet of pink trout grown in the Galilee. The trout dish, which in my opinion was the size of a main dish, was grilled to perfection on a coal grill, and served with pumpkin Chirashi cream, pumpkin consomme, and arisa. Next to it were served two side dishes – coal-grilled eggplant with tomato cream (delicious), and frena bread with olives.
Cream of corn was also served, with roasted lettuce and hazelnuts, just before the two meat dishes came to the table.
At this point I couldn’t eat anymore so I had to rely on my dinner companions to tell me how the two main dishes were. Judging by the empty plates (boy some of them can eat!), both were excellent.
The first, Hanger steak, was grilled to medium, then sliced and served with roasted onion, Jerusalem artichoke chips, and French-style red wine sauce. The second main dish was a rib of lamb, served with risotto-stuffed onion with dill and pistachio, on a cherry lamb sauce.
Stuffed as I was, I had to try the two desserts. The first was lemon cremeux with mint crumbles, meringue, and yuzu sorbet – my favorite! And one simply cannot finish a tasting menu without chocolate – so the second dessert was a rich chocolate cremeux, with olive oil caramel and pecan merengue, which was sublime.
West Side’s tasting menu does not come cheap – NIS 400 per person not including drinks – but it is definitely worth the price if you are celebrating a special occasion.
Do make sure to tell the restaurant ahead of arriving that you want the tasting menu – so they’ll be prepared for you, and make sure you can take your time to rest in between dishes.
West Side, Royal Beach Hotel, Tel Aviv19 Hayarkon StreetKosherFor reservations call (03)7405054
The writer was a guest of the restaurant