An Oasis of refined cuisine

Chef Rima Olvera never ceases to make magic

Chef Rima Olvera  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Chef Rima Olvera
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Whenever I am asked for my personal choices of top Tel Aviv restaurants, Oasis is invariably near the top of my list.
Oasis is the domain of chef Rima Olvera, a California native whose intimate downtown restaurant has attracted a loyal following over the years. Her creativity in sourcing and using natural ingredients rarely found on menus elsewhere is an open secret among her peers.
Oasis lists 10 cocktails on its alcohol menu, evenly split among classics and specialty drinks. A liquid amuse bouche of shots of the house Bloody Mary was evidence that the mixologist here is as talented as the kitchen staff. If the intriguing specialty cocktails had been any more resistible, we would have been tempted to order more of the particularly zesty vodka and tomato juice classic.
As it is, the Lemon Drop (NIS 45) – vodka, lemon and kaffir lime, served neat in a martini glass with a sugar rim – was like drinking liquid candy, while the Green Tea Shochu (NIS 48) – one of several cocktails evincing Japanese influence – was complex and aromatic.
The double-sided, one-page bilingual menu is updated regularly, reflecting the frequent incorporation of fresh seasonal ingredients. The format remains consistent: one column of seven first courses, alongside a second column of seven main courses (NIS 115 – NIS 145), with each dish identified by the airport code of the international destination that served as its inspiration.
Oasis is remarkably adept at catering to vegans, vegetarians and those seeking to avoid gluten: Simply ask for the dedicated nightly menu that adapts most dishes to your needs.
We were tempted to begin our meal with one of the restaurant’s signature dishes – the superb raw zucchini salad à la Rome – but then we might have missed the especially seasonal cherry salad (NIS 54): pitted white cherries with endive, feta cheese, tarragon and almonds. The refreshing mixture of sweet fruit with slightly bitter vegetable, salty feta cheese and crunchy nuts was a nice, if not exceptional, counterpoint of flavors and textures.
Next was the Chawan Mushi (NIS 79), which the menu details as “a traditional, delicate Japanese custard, with roasted lobster, shiso from Rima’s garden, and salt-cured sakura cherry blossoms from Kyoto.” The introduction of succulent lobster meat into a common Japanese dish was a stroke of culinary genius on the part of Olvera, resulting in an exquisite dish we hated to see end.
The international wine list is curated by Olvera herself, occasionally in conjunction with other top chefs who are invited to collaborate with her; recently, this was award-winning chef Orel Kimhi of the acclaimed restaurant Popina. We enjoyed our knowledgeable waitress’s recommendations: Blanc de Noir rosé by Amphorae of the Galilee (NIS 38), and the red Pure Counoise (NIS 48) from Israeli winery Seahorse.
The main course with the longest description was the Vietnam (HAN): crispy sea bream fillets with a special haute cuisine de Vietnam sauce of shallot, lemongrass and black pepper caramel, accompanied by a salad of glass noodles, pink grapefruit, mint, coriander, basil and fresh lime.
The generous mound of noodle salad was very good, if not outstanding, but the sublime fish was a real marvel. How the moist, flavorful fish remained attached to the extraordinarily crispy skin is a mystery worthy of scientific, as well as gastronomic, exploration. Meanwhile, the excellent Asian sauce enhanced the white fish perfectly.
Another enticing description was attached to the dish called Paris (CDG): grilled duck breast with French violet tea jam on blackpepper French toast with fresh passion fruit and grilled bok choy. This heavenly dish was worthy of every superlative I can think of. I’ll stick with two appropriately French terms: magnifique and pièce de résistance.
The only problem with concluding your main meal with a dish like that is that it’s a tough act to follow. A separate menu lists five desserts, including Eliav’s cheesecake (NIS 44) and the California pecan pie (NIS 48). The former was actually a sakura cherry blossom cheese mousse sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts, while we ended up preferring the latter: a buttery tartlet topped with a scoop of Jack Daniel’s ice cream.
With dessert we had another startlingly good drink: matcha green tea latte, served cool.
Discover this Oasis, and you might just find that a hitherto undetected thirst for transcendent, innovative cuisine has been quenched.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher
17 Montefiore Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 620-602