Italian with an Israeli twist

Rendezvous offers kosher dairy food with a continental flavor.

Rendezvous (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Back in the old days, Rehov Lilienblum was known as the place to go to change your money on the black market. Nowadays it’s the home of some top-class restaurants and one of Tel-Aviv’s coolest thoroughfares.
Rendezvous is the restaurant we were invited to try out recently. Established about two years ago by the same people who opened the meat restaurant Carmen further along the street, it offers dairy food with a continental flavor, some Italian and French influences, but with an Israeli twist.
The place, in an old Neve Tzedek building, is very large, but the décor has been cleverly chosen to make the place almost cozy with patterned wallpaper, gilt mirrors and a bouquet of fresh flowers on the central bar.
No sooner had we sat down than the old oil and balsamic appeared together with olives, coarse salt and black pepper arranged in a striped design. Black and white crusty bread was also served.
The wait staff were all very helpful and insisted on speaking English, which they did reasonably well.
For a starter I chose grilled mushrooms with Parmesan and rocket (arugula) leaves (NIS 36). The mushrooms were the regular champignons you get in the supermarket, which surprised me as there are so many exotic varieties around these days.
However, they were nicely seasoned and grilled and the wafer-thin slivers of hearty Parmesan provided a good contrast, together with the equally pungent arugula leaves.
My dining companion chose roasted red peppers, an innocuous enough dish, with masses of garlic and oregano (NIS 38). Our waiter also brought us, with the bread slices, what turned out to be another innovation: a bowl of crème fraîche rather than butter (NIS 22.)
For my main course, the waiter – who was very knowledgeable – suggested musar-yam or drum fish, served with a puree of potatoes with truffles (NIS 149). It was a delicious dish, dripping with butter, and the truffles imparted a marvelous distinctive flavor to the potatoes.
My companion chose barbunia, which are a small deep-fried sea fish. Most people would find them complicated to eat.
“You’ve got to be patient with the bones,” warned our waiter.
There were about six or seven fish, all dissected by my companion with surgical precision and pronounced delicious (NIS 95). The accompanying grilled vegetables were mushrooms, eggplant and potatoes.
After a decent interval we decided to tackle the desserts. My companion chose the chocolate mousse – a fluffy concoction made with dark chocolate that made it pleasantly but not overpoweringly sweet. Fresh raspberries and chocolate sauce completed the dish (NIS 36.)
I picked my favorite, crème brûlée, which was perfect – a creamy custard, just set, topped with crunchy caramelized burnt sugar (NIS 42).
A trip to the bathroom before leaving stirred up ancient memories.
When I immigrated to Israel in 1973, I wrote an article about how Israeli apartments are so small that rooms double up their functions, and I decided to make the sherutim double as a library.
And, lo and behold, the smallest room was decorated with “library” wallpaper, an eclectic depiction of books of all shapes and sizes.
I truly felt as though a prophecy had been fulfilled.
Lilienblum 1, Tel Aviv
Phone: 03-510-0057
Open Sun-Thurs. 9:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Friday: 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Saturday night one hour after Shabbat.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.