Jajo redux

The trendy Sarona wine bar unveils an affordable tasting menu.

Jajo restaurant in Sarona complex (photo credit: PR)
Jajo restaurant in Sarona complex
(photo credit: PR)
A few weeks ago, my colleague Shawn Rodgers wrote a review in which he sang the praises of Jajo, especially the culinary genius of chef Adi Levi. My own visit certainly confirmed his impressions. In addition, I was introduced to Jajo’s “early bird” tasting menu – a great way to experience the wine bar’s outstanding food at prices that won’t break the bank.
Jajo’s owners spent NIS 3 million to refurbish a former Templer winery in the southeastern corner of what is now the bustling Sarona complex, which has quickly become one of Tel Aviv’s most popular places for food and drink. Patrons may choose among the wine bar’s 120 seats at the bar, tables on the main floor or a few isolated tables upstairs. For the best choice, it pays to get there before 8:30 p.m., which, coincidentally enough, is the ending time for the tasting menu that commences at 6 p.m.
The three-part tasting menu comprises seven courses for the very reasonable price of NIS 110 per person. Four of the courses are fixed, while diners select two main courses from a list of four options. There is a choice of one of four desserts.
The meal started with a basket of house breads: brown raisin and a white flour ciabatta. Served with beurre noisette, a blend of olive oils and coarse salt, it was hard not to fill up on the fresh and crusty bread.
While Jajo qualifies to be in the category of a top-class restaurant, it is also a wine bar where customers can rely on the expertise of both the wait staff and the sommelier, who will be happy to advise on wine pairings to accompany each course.
Glasses of wine cost NIS 42 during tasting menu hours. The designated driver can enjoy the house mineral water, Ferrarelle, which is reminiscent of Pellegrino.
Our first course was foie gras mousse on a black raspberry coulis.
The richness of the creamy mousse was tempered perfectly by the sweet-and-tart fruit. Spread the mousse by itself on the accompanying fresh brioche for a few heavenly bites, then gently add coulis to create your own customized balance.
The precision of the chef was perhaps most evident in the preparation of the “crispy egg,” which was one of the components of the endive salad. Imagine a poached egg in a light dusting of toasty batter, and you get an idea of the delicate touch required in the kitchen to achieve this unusual result. The endive itself was grilled and came with roasted red onion, crispy shallots and a mild Caesar dressing. It takes a rare talent to even conceive of this overall combination of ingredients, let alone execute it so well.
Another example of inspired commingling of ingredients was the bone marrow in smoked beef jus, accompanied by pickled radish and mizuna salad. The presentation of the marrow, studded with garlic chips, was striking in twin split bones. The slight acidity of the salad cut the latent greasiness of the marrow, allowing its true intense flavor to emerge.
The Bloody Mary carpaccio sirloin was truly imaginative. The shavings of beef in a tomato reduction came with a vodka chaser and sprout garnish to complete the theme built on the classic cocktail. Ultra-thin freshly fried potato chips added the requisite touch of saltiness.
The fresh ricotta cavatelli with shrimps was a remarkable pasta dish. In Levi’s version, half the pasta dough was cheese, while the sauce was a seafood gravy. The light and cheesy cavatelli, tossed with the rather uncommon ingredient salicornia and roasted cherry tomatoes, still managed to be quite filling and eminently satisfying.
The desserts were every bit as creative as the dishes that preceded them. For example, one called “Breakfast” featured something I never would have dreamt could exist: Cheerios ice cream. The taste was unmistakable and spot-on. The rest of “Breakfast” consisted of coconut cream, granola, bananas and peanut butter. Suitable any time of the day.
Other dessert options were truly exotic: olive oil cake made with the fresh fruit of the day (in our instance, fresh figs), served with rosemary ice cream, pine nuts, candied citrus peel and orange creme anglaise. It was great fun eating the components separately as well as together.
Finally, no dessert menu would be complete without something chocolate, and Levi did not disappoint here, either. Jajo’s “chocolate bar” rested on sesame crumble and was enhanced by tahini ice cream and Sichuan chocolate powder. Indescribably good.
It would be the rare person indeed who eats at Jajo without planning an eventual return.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Jajo Not kosher 27 Rav Aluf David Elazar, Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 522-5822