Catch of the day

Deca, the kosher fish restaurant established 11 years ago in Tel Aviv, has acquired an enviable reputation – and justifiably so. The menu was initially put together by celebrity chef Haim Cohen, and the layout of the place is such that diners can watch present chef Roi Cohen and his helpers beavering away in the spotless kitchen through a hatch in the wall.

If you didn’t know the place had a Mediterranean bent, the décor would soon reveal it. High ceilings, lowered in parts, decorative tiles interspersed with raw concrete walls, and a beautiful lacy mashrabiya (wooden decoration) covering the upper walls.

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The tables are elegantly laid with starched white linen tablecloths and napkins and good-quality flatware. The service is solicitous without being in the slightest bit servile, quite an achievement. At one point, our waitress put down a white plate, saw it had a speck on it, and quickly changed it for another.

A sliced focaccia with dips was the first item to appear (NIS 39). Besides the ubiquitous olive oil and balsamic vinegar, there were tsasiki – more peppery than usual but refreshing – tehina, white salted cheese, labaneh and beautifully presented ikra (fish roe) with chopped red onion and fresh herbs.

As we had left the choices of food to our hosts, more and more dishes kept arriving. There was a delicious handmade gnocchi dish, with a rich buttery cheese sauce that was slightly sweet, given the unusual addition of honey (NIS 65).

Next up was a dish of raw tuna chunks on smoky eggplant slices garnished with coriander and basil. Two more fish starters were a ceviche of fresh sea bass – ultra fresh and lemony – (NIS 50) and little fried rissoles of mullet in a chipotle vinaigrette served with tehina, black bean salad and tomatoes (NIS 48).

For a main course I chose lavrak (NIS 135) – grilled slices of sea bass served with a dark smear of aubergine cream blended with tehina. The accompanying vegetables had a pleasing smoky and peppery taste.

My dining companion hit the jackpot with grilled red tuna steak in a cream sauce. The tuna was quite rare, soft and succulent, and the sauce was superb – a threecheese blend helped along with fresh cream (NIS 145). Even the parsley garnish had been flavored with lemon and herbs.

Desserts did not disappoint. We had a chocolate-covered half ball of coconut mousse, a brilliant combination of flavors (NIS 45); and a beautiful plate of vanilla mousse, decorated with flowers and served with a scoop of pineapple ice cream (NIS 45).

Throughout the meal we drank Recanati Merlot Reserve. Although it is a strong dry red wine, it complemented the food perfectly (NIS 56 a glass).

A cappuccino and a mint tea ended what had been a superb meal, well worth leaving the home comforts for and driving into the big metropolis of Tel Aviv.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Deca
Kosher
10 Hata’asiya St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 562-9900
Open Sun-Thurs, noon to 11 p.m.