Dining: Umami at the Hilton

The Tel Aviv Hilton highlights the healthful new savory flavor.

The Tel Aviv Hilton (photo credit: PR)
The Tel Aviv Hilton
(photo credit: PR)
 It seems to be the Hilton Tel Aviv’s mission in life to get us all to eat more healthily. According to their executive chef, Rafik Jabarin, Hiltons everywhere “have been working to encourage healthier dining and cooking….
and hundreds of our partner hotels have developed a ‘healthy options’ approach, while never compromising on taste and the diner’s enjoyment.”
They are now promoting and using a revolutionary new flavor, umami, as a substitute for salt and recently held a luncheon to convince the skeptics that food can be just as tasty prepared their way.
Umami, the star of the show, means “the delicious taste” in Japanese. It is produced by Salt of the Earth, a veteran Israeli company, and is derived from sea salt and combined with vegetable concentrates to flavor food while considerably reducing sodium.
At the luncheon to sample umami–style food, another Hilton innovation catches the eye. Rather than have waiters walking around with glassed of pre-lunch wines on trays, they have installed a wine station that dispenses wine automatically. The great advantage of this new technology is that the wine in the opened bottles is not spoiled, and the life of the wine is said to be extended for two months.
The luncheon kicked off with an hors d’oeuvre of tuna balls putanesca. Now no one appreciates the humble tuna more than busy housewives stuck for a quick meal who can turn it into salade nicoise or rissoles at the buzz of a food processor.
These balls, even with a laundry list of ingredients that included capers, chives, basil leaves and chopped olives and, of course, umami, still tasted of – well, tuna.
With all the effort and added ingredients that went into the tinned tuna, one might have expected something less prosaic.
Next to arrive were artichoke ravioli with eggplant cream. This was a pairing of two exotic vegetables, both with robust flavors, and the result was very satisfactory – a real treat for the taste buds. I certainly didn’t taste any lack of salt, so the umami was clearly doing its job.
The main course consisted of two oven-baked sea bream fillets, served on a ricotta pancake with pea puree. Again, the different textures and flavors complemented each other, making for a healthful but tasty dish. The ricotta pancake was rather stodgy and might have benefited from more cheese and less flour. But the two-ingredient pea puree (peas and olive oil) was delicious.
When we had reached the dessert course, we braced ourselves for something piously healthy. It was a classic crème brulee, in which, to my mind, all attempts to be healthy had been abandoned, I’m glad to say. With all that rich cream and burnt sugar topping, there was no alternative but to throw caution to the wind and relish every mouthful. Some dishes are worth living dangerously for.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Hilton Tel Aviv
205 Hayarkon
Tel: (03) 520-2222
The lobby is open 24/7.