The Norman’s norm

Dinings, the famed restaurant at The Normans boutique hotel, sets a new sushi standard in Israel.

Dinings restaurant at the Normans boutique hotel. (photo credit: PR)
Dinings restaurant at the Normans boutique hotel.
(photo credit: PR)
Opened in the winter, Dinings, the Japanese restaurant located on the top floor of The Norman Hotel, is always fully booked, and getting a table there for dinner on any night has proven mission impossible. That is until this week, when they began to open for lunch as well. “Hurray!” we exclaimed as we rushed to reserve a table there mid-week.
And what a treat it was! The Norman, the brainchild of London-based Jonathan Lurie, is one of the most luxurious boutique hotels in Tel Aviv. So it is only fitting that it should be home to the finest sushi restaurants in the country.
Dinings is a branch of the worldrenowned London restaurant with the same name, which offers a unique fusion of traditional Izakaya-style Japanese tapas and modern European cuisine, presented with flair in an informal setting.
The Tel Aviv Dinings welcomes its patrons with a long and massive marble sushi counter where one can sit and marvel at the wizardry of the Japanese sushi master or choose from two seating areas: inside, next to the semiopen kitchen, or out on the shaded terrace.
The kitchen is supervised by an expert Japanese chef who comes from the London flagship restaurant to ensure that everything is executed according to the very strict rules, such as the preparation of the rice, a major component in sushi that most Israeli sushi places do not pay the attention it is due; to the fish, that in part are imported fresh daily; and to the authentic ingredients and inventive sauces.
The place is run smoothly and professionally, from the warm greeting at the entrance to the English-speaking, helpful and knowledgeable staff (our waiter, Ben, seemed to anticipate our wishes before we raised our eyes, answered every question about ingredients in full and had fantastic suggestions). The modern yet classic décor, the linen napkins and beautiful porcelain dishes, and the blissful quiet (there’s no music!) make this one of the best dining options in Israel, and definitely the best sushi you can get here, the likes of which one can only find – outside Japan – in London or New York.
The business lunch menu is concise and easy to understand, yet offers a glimpse into what the Izakaya style is all about. The starters, zensai, served with any of the choices, include assorted appetizers. We got two bite-size thin chip shells stuffed with king crab and avocado with spicy mayo sauce – a perfect bite that offers textures and flavors.
The other appetizers were a threeweed salad with yuzu dressing and an excellent spinach salad with Japanese tahini and black sesame dressing. Each salad was served in its own amorphousshaped dish that felt good holding in one hand while eating with chopsticks with the other.
With the appetizers we had a glass of Chablis and a sake martini – a great suggestion from Ben.
This was a very dry and clean martini served with a lemon curl.
The restaurant has an impressive wine list and an even more impressive sake list.
Next we got a taste of the evening a la carte menu – a beautiful dish of toro tuna tartare that was pickled in wasabi and salt, served with chive salsa and topped with black caviar, swimming in a dressing of jalapeno, wasabi and yuzu. The description does not come anywhere near what the dish tasted like. As for the presentation – it was tantalizing. The greenish-yellow souplike sauce was the background to a round pink toro tartare, presented in a prefect disc, topped with a light green salsa disc topped with black caviar.
Then came our main dish choices.
We decided to try one tasting lunch and one sashimi Mori, a 12-piece selection of sashimi and a threepiece maki roll. This was no regular sushi. It was so good that it has ruined any other local sushi for us, at least until we will forget the taste.
But first to arrive to the table were dishes from the tasting lunch: one shabu shabu dish, the traditional beef slices boiled in soup and served with ponzu sauce, a bite of fillet of cod in chili and garlic marinade, pickled vegetables and tempura of crystal shrimps and jalapeno chili.
When the sushi arrived, we were already almost full, but the clean flavors and sophisticated combinations meant we were not going to miss on anything here.
It is difficult to get really good sushi in Israel. The choice of fresh fish and other ingredients is limited, and most of the chefs that prepare the sushi did not get the proper training. But not at Dinings. As mentioned before, from the superb rice to the selection of fish – fresh, excellent and prepared to perfection – it was one of the best sushi meals we ever had, and we like sushi.
Desserts consisted of Japanese whiskey and champagne sorbet – light and satisfying; and a chocolate fondant that was as rich as you can imagine.
Business lunches at Dinings are rather pricey, ranging from NIS 120 to NIS 160, and the a la carte evening menu is even steeper. But the food and the experience are well worth the price.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Dinings Japanese Tapas
Not kosher
25 Nachmani St., Tel Aviv
Open 7 days a week
For reservations: dinings@ or (03) 543-5444