Restaurant review: A feast for the senses

Messa serves up a memorable culinary experience

Messa restaurant in Tel Aviv (photo credit: PR)
Messa restaurant in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: PR)
From the moment you enter Messa, you know you are about to have a memorable culinary experience. For one thing, it is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Tel Aviv. Once you step foot in the dining room, you feel as if you’ve been transported to Europe. A seemingly endless white maple bar runs down the middle of the restaurant, illuminated by low-hanging light fixtures with oversized lampshades, while transparent oil- burning candelabras provide the flicker for a romantic evening.
Moments after we were seated, a waitress arrived with menus in Hebrew and English. The complexity and diversity of the dishes was dizzying, even for a restaurant of this standing, but our waitress patiently reviewed the specials one by one as we tried to focus. Messa’s menu is a culinary melting pot, and the food on offer is simple yet luxurious and indulgent. Not only is chef Aviv Moshe an excellent and innovative chef, but he is also an artist. Every plate that came out of the kitchen was a work of art, from a simple salad right through to the desserts.
First up was the shakshuka sashimi (NIS 68), which consisted of seared red tuna, a soft-boiled egg, small quarters of toast with a cheese filling all on a bed of the freshest tomatoes. This is where Messa’s exquisite presentation becomes evident. I was so mesmerized by the colors and the beauty of the dish, that I almost didn’t want to spoil it by digging in. The sashimi was fresh and tasty, but this dish seemed to be more about delighting in the experience of being able to play with your food, mixing and matching the different accompaniments with the fish.
This was followed by one of Messa’s signature dishes – seared foie gras (NIS 88) with white Valrhona lemon sauce served with a shot of “sassy chocolate.” When it arrived, I marveled at its beautiful presentation. The foie gras was seared to perfection, while pink and almost raw inside.
The mixture of tastes and textures of the meat, lemon and chocolate was absolute bliss. The essence of this dish was so complex, and the flavors blended together like magic.
Next up was the yellowtail sashimi (NIS 66) with onions with sumac, caramelized eggplant and wasabi sorbet. Very simple in execution and bold in complementary flavors, this is a must-order. The yellowtail was melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The wasabi sorbet was one of the most unique things I have ever tasted.
Right when I thought it was going to be too spicy, it mellowed out and became sweet and refreshing.
With an extensive wine list, Messa’s choice is vast, so we left it up to our attentive and knowledgeable server to recommend a lovely French Cabernet Sauvignon that was equally as comfortable with the fish as it was with the meat.
Taking a look around, we noted the international crowd that had gathered around us. On one side was a family from Argentina, and on the other was an Australian man and his American colleague.
For the main course, we were treated to chef Moshe’s famous lamb chops (NIS 176) with lemon fondue, fennel and avocado salad.
Now I was thinking, “Oh sure, lamb chops, medium rare. Had it a dozen times,” expecting the usual semi-lukewarm lamb chop without a lot of flavor. I was wrong. And how good it tasted to be wrong! The juiciest, most delicately flavored lamb chops I have ever had. I will definitely return just for that dish.
Last, we were served the beef fillet (NIS 88/158) in chestnut and balsamic stock. Cutting into my fillet was like cutting through butter – it was an amazing pillowy piece of meaty goodness.
The desserts were sinfully good.
We shared the Sarkozy – a decadent dark chocolate delight made especially for the former French president on his visit here.
We also had the wild berries dessert (62 NIS), a layered dessert served in a tall glass. It consisted of strawberry sorbet, meringue, pastry cream, fresh strawberries, strawberry marmalade and strawberry macaroons. The desserts alone would keep us coming back for more.
Messa is unquestionably worthy of the international praise and recognition it has received on the culinary scene both here and abroad. The decor, staff, quality of food and ambience make the entire dining experience an unforgettable one. This establishment is truly a feast for the senses.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Messa Not kosher 19 Ha’arb’a Street, Tel Aviv (03) 685-6859