Darya: Experience Silk Road cuisine in Tel Aviv - review

The restaurant is lovely. White tablecloths, gleaming silverware, and the kind of service that is usually found in fancy hotels.

 Silk Road cuisine at Darya. (photo credit: OHAD KAB)
Silk Road cuisine at Darya.
(photo credit: OHAD KAB)

I must be craving travel, because as soon as I heard there is a new restaurant in the Tel Aviv Hilton that serves Silk Road cuisine, I had to try it. I wasn’t sure what exactly Silk Road cuisine is, but I knew I wanted to experience something new.

The restaurant is one floor down from the lobby. I love hotels, and just walking into one usually makes me happy. This was no exception. The Tel Aviv Hilton has a parking lot, and (read closely now) Darya will validate the parking. I was glad it did, as just over two hours of parking would have cost me NIS 61.

The restaurant is lovely. White tablecloths, gleaming silverware, and the kind of service that is usually found in fancy hotels. The tables are spaced far apart, and you can actually have a conversation if you want to.

The restaurant has an extensive wine menu, but the only cocktails on offer are Gin and Tonic (NIS 70) with a choice of seven different gins. Guy (our very solicitous waiter) suggested the Jerusalem gin for me, and the Acre gin for my husband. Both drinks came in a tall glass with cucumber, and green herbs including parsley and coriander. They were a great way to start the meal.

The menu is divided into three sections: Appetizers, Small Plates and Big Plates. While the entire menu (except for desserts) fits on one page, chef Hilel Tavakuli has put together unique dishes with many components.

 Silk Road cuisine at Darya. (credit: OHAD KAB) Silk Road cuisine at Darya. (credit: OHAD KAB)

The idea of Silk Road cuisine includes dishes from Indian, Persian, Uzbeki and Turkish cuisines, many of which use combinations of spices I hadn’t tasted before. Menus are available in Hebrew and English. The English menu has its prices in US dollars, while the Hebrew menu is in shekels.

“I don’t think that kosher is something that is supposed to be an obstacle,” Tavakuli said in an interview. “In fact, the opposite is true. I wanted to think a little out of the box and not to do what everyone else does.”

In that, he has certainly succeeded.

From the appetizers section we ordered only the Barbari bread with sesame and za’atar, tomato salsa and green harissa, but what we received was a large round tray with all of the appetizers offered. The tray is available for NIS 92, and I highly recommend it. It included the most unique olives I’ve ever tried in a walnut and pomegranate concentrate, Egyptian fava beans confit with black Persian lime marmalade and olive oil, and pickled garlic cloves in Galpar and tamarind. The only dish I didn’t particularly like was the “moistened almonds with salt,” which were soggy and bland.

From the Small Plates section we chose the Kashmir Cut ($31), which is meant to be shared. It was two skewers of beef on licorice sticks that had been marinated in garam masala, and was served with grilled sticky rice, spicy tomato salad with okra coriander, and a lemon grass chili marinade. It was served on a tabletop grill and was meant to evoke the campfires that traveling nomads would cook around in the evening. It was flavorful, and we both enjoyed it.

But the best was yet to come. There are six choices in the “Big Plates” section, and I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. My husband chose the Grilled Duck in Shiitake and Sichuan Salt ($34.25), which was served with wild mushrooms and shiitake along with white miso and tamarind.

“Oh my God,” he said, as he took his first bite. “This is one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life.”

We switched our plates halfway through, and I had to agree with his description. I also loved every bite of my dish, a Grilled Tenderloin with Veal Sweetbreads ($49) on a licorice stick, served with salsa verde, mashed lima beans and pomegranate demi-glace. I swooned over every bite. If you’ve just won the lottery or have a rich uncle, you could go for Smoked Lamb Shank for Two ($131), which is glazed with roses, rice puff, dry mint, Druze pita, curry vinaigrette, fresh herbs and Turpon pickles.

By the time we finished, it was past 9 p.m., and we were quite full and still had to drive back to Jerusalem.

Guy approached the table and asked us what we wanted for dessert.

“I’m sorry, but I’m really full and it’s getting late,” I said.

He looked very disappointed.

I saw the table next to us had just gotten their desserts, so as a service to my readers I went over to take a look, and pastry chef Idan Hadad had outdone himself. It was a table of two parents, with three adult children, who were celebrating father Amir’s birthday.

“This isn’t just a meal, it’s a culinary experience,” Amir said.

As we were leaving, Guy rushed over with a dessert we didn’t order and we sat back down. And were we glad we did!

It was called Fallude (NIS 58), and it was a bowl of almond milk and Zahar water, with rice noodles, rose and almond sorbet, raspberry coulis, candied roses and pistachio nougat. The large bowl was placed in another bowl of crushed ice that kept the dish cold.

It was unlike anything I had ever eaten before (which I finally understand is what this place is all about) and was simply delicious.

DaryaTel Aviv Hilton205 Hayarkon StreetHours: Sunday-Thursday, 6:30 p.m.-11 p.m.Tel: (03) 520-2127Kashrut: Tel Aviv Rabbinate

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.