Dining: Eilat elite

Fish restaurant Pago Pago is Red Sea dining at its best.

Pago Pago restaurant (photo credit: WWW.PAGOPAGOREST.COM)
Pago Pago restaurant
(photo credit: WWW.PAGOPAGOREST.COM)
Pago Pago has been a fixture in the Eilat marina for more than a quarter-century, first as a floating restaurant, and for the last six years in sleek modern quarters on the pier overlooking the water.
No establishment lasts that long in the restaurant business without doing things right, and in Pago Pago’s case this means fish and seafood.
Chef Kobby Revach, who trained under Yonatan Roshfeld, oversees the preparation of the freshest fish and seafood the restaurant can obtain.
Surprisingly, most of it is flown in from Tel Aviv (and beyond) several times a week. All things considered, Pago Pago does its best to keep its dishes affordable, offering some of them in choices of medium or large, priced accordingly.
The menu headings reinforce the restaurant’s specialties: Surf (which alsi includes appetizers not in this category), Open Sea and Straight from the Net.
It’s worth starting the meal with the house bread: a loaf of sourdough with chia seeds, served piping hot with herbed butter (NIS 18). It’s not only very good on its own, but it comes in handy for sopping up sauces and wiping plates clean throughout the meal.
We started with a Mediterranean take on a Latin American classic: white fish ceviche in yogurt with Kalamata olives, radishes and shallots (NIS 52). The raw fish was sliced like sashimi, and the interplay of flavors was exceptional. In addition, small dollops of a mild tomato coulis and peppery schug added an extra kick.
The panzanella salad (NIS 48) was proof positive that Pago Pago’s devotion to freshness extends to all the items on the menu. Baby spinach and basil leaves were tossed with cherry tomatoes (both green and red), large soft croutons and buffalo mozzarella cheese in a fine vinaigrette. The creamy Italian mozzarella was superb, and the entire salad was refreshing.
Our next seafood dish was purple calamari on lemon tehina and black eggplant cream, with truffle oil and garlic (NIS 44/68).
The flavorful squid, from Italy, were the largest I have had in Israel. And the black nightshade mousse added more complexity to this remarkable dish.
The house wines available by the glass rotate monthly.
Although white is traditional with fish and seafood, the robust flavors characteristic of Pago Pago’s dishes called for a fullbodied red. The Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (NIS 38) was excellent.
There was more seafood to come: shrimp and calamari Marseille (NIS 58/96). The plump shrimp and small rings of calamari, along with gnocchi, were bathed in a rich white wine, butter and garlic sauce, which was mopped up nicely by the potato pasta dumplings.
But the pièce de résistance was the blue crab in an outstanding chili cream and basil sauce (NIS 76). A masterpiece of fusion, the sweet white meat of the crab was drenched in a velvety smooth Asian-inspired sauce with just the right amount of heat.
By this time we hardly had room for dessert, but the waiter practically insisted we try the poppy seed ice cream, made in-house (NIS 36). It was served on a plate drizzled with caramel, with what the menu calls “flaky almond pastry” that actually tasted like almond brittle candy.
The combination was dynamite and worth ordering for the ice cream alone.
An evening at Pago Pago, and walking off a delicious meal on a balmy evening by the shores of the Red Sea, is what a vacation in Eilat is all about.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Pago Pago
Not kosher
The Marina, Eilat
Tel: (08) 637-6660