Italian by any other name

Coffee Bar wins acclaim for its Northern Italian cuisine.

Tel Aviv’s CoffeeBar (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv’s CoffeeBar
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv’s CoffeeBar is one of the popular restaurants belonging to the highly regarded R2M Group, which also comprises, inter alia, La Brasserie, Delicatessen and the Hotel Montefiore. Yet the name – a nostalgic holdover from the 1990s, when the place was just an espresso bar – might well be considered misleading today. Instead of a coffee shop or kiosk, diners will find a fullfledged restaurant with touches of elegance, including white tablecloths (in the evenings), marble bars and a stylish European-style al fresco area.
The menu as well contains elements of surprise. While on the whole it reflects eclectic variety, there is also an emphasis on Italian dishes – to the point where the Israel chapter of the Italian Academy of Cuisine hosted one of its dinners there, recognition that many restaurants identified first and foremost as Italian have yet to achieve. Moreover, the discerning cognoscenti awarded their meal there three stars (out of five), which ties CoffeeBar with very few other eateries for the highest score awarded by the group thus far.
There are six specialty summer cocktails (NIS 36-48) on the bilingual cocktail menu, from which we chose the Lime and Thyme – citrus vodka, Aperol, green chartreuse and passion fruit, garnished with a sprig of thyme; and the G.G. Marquez – tequila, saffron gin, Cointreau and blood orange juice, garnished with a geranium leaf. Both were served neat in martini glasses and were quite refreshing, while – since multiple liquors are involved – packing quite a punch.
The food menu at CoffeeBar is updated and printed twice daily, for lunch and dinner. While the menu is not divided into categories with headings, there are groupings that roughly correspond to appetizers, salads and intermediate or main courses. Italian dishes are interspersed throughout, although pizzas and pastas are conveniently listed on their own.
All meals at CoffeeBar begin with complimentary house bread – baguette in the afternoons, sourdough and rye bread in the evenings – served with a spicy aioli.
An Italian repast here, meanwhile, might well commence with the salad that corresponds to the traditional Caprese: mozzarella di buffalo, with cherry tomatoes, olive oil and a garnish of basil (NIS 49). The generous scoop of white semi-soft cheese is extremely fresh and, thankfully, only very lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar.
Our starter was chicken liver pâté with marinated pear, sourdough bruschetta and cornichons (NIS 46).
The richness of the slabs of pâté pairs was cut nicely by the sweetness of the fruit, while the crisp toast added another dimension of texture.
Of the four pastas on the menu, we chose the goat cheese and spinach agnolotti (NIS 42/68). The pillowy pockets of pasta were stuffed with deliciously savory goat cheese and flecks of spinach and served with dried tomatoes, evoking the red, white and green of the Italian flag. This ravioli variation was presented in a tomato-butter sauce that enhanced the pasta without overwhelming it.
Our main course was the grilled chicken seasoned with rosemary and lemon (NIS 79), a great Mediterranean combination. The exterior of the two pieces of chicken – both white and dark meat – imparted a welcome hint charcoal, while the poultry itself was moist and flavorful.
Since the wine list had been updated in Hebrew but not English, the helpful manager advised us in English. From the limited selection of Israeli and European wines by the glass (NIS 32-48), he recommended a crisp white from Sicily and a fullbodied Nebbiolo from Piemonte, both suitable for summer weather.
Three of the seven desserts were Italian. We ordered the coffee and mascarpone cream with biscotti, espresso and sambuca (NIS 42) and the Sicilian cannoli (NIS 36). The former was like a deconstructed tiramisu, featuring a superb coffee mousse, while the latter were delicate pastry shells filled with orangeaccented ricotta cream. Neither was too sweet nor too heavy.
CoffeeBar is a place where some members of a party may choose to eat Italian, while others may enjoy dishes inspired by other cuisines, all prepared by a talented kitchen staff.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
CoffeeBar Not kosher 13 Yad Harutzim St., Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 688-9696