This year saw a wave of Asian restaurants open in Tel Aviv, and Taizu was without doubt one of the most talked about and eagerly anticipated of them all.After a year and a half of research, planning and construction, the slick new restaurant, which is located on the ground floor of Levinstein Tower on Menachem Begin Road, finally opened in March and immediately caught the attention of Tel Aviv’s culinary community.It’s not just the innovative Asian- Mediterranean fusion menu built by chef Yuval Ben-Neria that created a buzz, but the sleek,modern interior also attracted much interest. Designed by Pitsou Kedem Architects and Baranowitz- Amit Design Studio, the Asianthemed interior of the restaurant, which is based on the five elements of ancient Chinese philosophy (fire, water, metal, wood and earth), is contemporary and innovative, When I first entered the space, I was immediately impressed. My dining companion, who has lived in New York, said that the restaurant wouldn’t look out of place in a trendy neighborhood of Manhattan. With a capacity for 150 diners, the restaurant is divided into five main seating areas, each as impressive as the other. There is the lounge area with an informal set-up of bar stools, which leads to the more formal main dining space, as well as a bar area with an open kitchen next to it. There is also the chef room, which is separated from the main dining space by glass doors, and outside lies a large terrace furnished with custom-designed black slate tables.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.Taizu Not kosher Levinstein Tower 23 Menachem Begin Road, Tel Aviv Open daily from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to midnight.Closed Friday afternoons.Tel: (03) 522-5005 www.taizu.co.ilWhile plenty more can be said about the design, it’s the food that really takes center stage at Taizu.Ben-Neria took some time out from his busy kitchen to come to our space at the bar to explain the concept behind the food. He said the inspiration came from his own interpretation of street food in Asian countries such as India, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. He spent a considerable amount of time in those countries and sampled hundreds of local dishes there.Sitting at the bar gave me and my dining companion a great opportunity to interact with the three knowledgeable and charming waiters who served us throughout the evening. They all recommended the cocktails, so we decided to see what all the fuss was about. I went for the Hoisin Jack (NIS 42), which was made up of Jack Daniel’s, orange, thyme, citrus syrup and cinnamon. My dining companion opted for the Green Tai (NIS 52), made up of Stoli Elit vodka, sake, litchi cream and green tea. Both cocktails were beautifully presented in interesting glasses and had strong flavors to back up the attractive presentation.Taizu is one of those restaurants where sharing is encouraged, so that’s exactly what we did. To start the meal, we tried some traditional Asian-style steamed buns, which on their own weren’t anything special but later came in useful to soak up some of the excellent sauces from the starters.There wasn’t much sauce left after we finished with the wild fish carpaccio (NIS 58), which was dressed in olive oil, yuzo juice, red chilies and scallions. The thinly sliced fish was of an excellent quality, and all the added flavors complemented it perfectly. The sea fish sashimi (NIS 66) didn’t have much sauce to soak up, but what it lacked in sauce it made up for in flavor. Served with tuna broth, lemongrass, caramelized shallots and roasted jasmine rice, the portion was somewhat small but packed with strong flavors and various textures.The Chinese vegetables (NIS 46), which didn’t sound too inspiring on paper, were a real treat. The snow peas, oyster and shiitake mushrooms and bok choy were all cooked to perfection, and the lemongrass foam added an extra kick.It’s a shame we had already finished all the steamed buns by the time the mains came because we could have done with something to sop up the delicious sauce that came with the mussels (NIS 78). Made up of chili oil, crispy garlic, golden syrup, light soy and garlic butter bruschetta, the sauce was extremely rich, and we just couldn’t get enough of it.Just as good was the tandoori calamari (NIS 72) with sour cream, roasted almonds, cilantro, Tilkut Masala and sweet potato. Despite its being very filling, we didn’t have much trouble finishing it off because it tasted so good.To match the high design standards of the interior, the two desserts we ordered could be considered works of art. The Valrhona chocolate sensation (NIS 48) was a fine structure constructed from rich chocolate, salted peanuts, caramel, cashews and brown butter ice cream on the side.The mango parfait (NIS 48) with white chocolate and louisa, meringue and red raspberry sauce was no less impressive in its appearance. Fortunately, the high standard of presentation was backed up with strong tastes and interesting combinations that worked well together.We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Taizu. It offers innovative, fresh Asian fusion food in a modern, yet comfortable setting. Some may call it pretentious, some may say it’s a little over the top, but when all is said and done, the food is extremely tasty, and the atmosphere is professional and inviting.