Paris on Dizengoff

Chef Yogev Yehros opens his much-anticipated bistro Hotel de Ville • By BUZZY GORDON Yogev Yehros, former chef and one of the original owners of Mel and Michelle, which has become a mainstay of Italian cuisine in Tel Aviv, has spent the last few years away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, operating Mitbachazer, a rural concept restaurant and catering operation in Moshav Ginaton. He always remained connected to the culinary scene in the metropolis, however, consulting to new restaurants like Jaffa’s Beit Kandinof (see the review of June 28 in this section).

Earlier this summer, Yehros teamed up with new partner Ariel Leizgold of the Monkey Business Group – owners of Bellboy and several other popular Tel Aviv bars – to open Hotel de Ville, which they call a Gastro Bar, inspired by the neighborhood bistros of Paris.

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Indeed, the decor of the new establishment, located on the strategic corner of Dizengoff and Jabotinsky Streets, is Parisian sidewalk café on the outside, and typical French brasserie inside.

As befits a venture co-helmed by Leizgold, an award-winning mixologist, the alcohol menu of Hotel de Ville features no fewer than 12 specialty cocktails (NIS 36-54) based on French spirits. Interestingly for a restaurant with such a French pedigree, cocktails take pride of place even over wine, a limited selection of which is available only by the glass.

The food and drink menus are both on one single, two-sided typewritten page; in spite of its compact appearance, the food menu covers a lot of bases. The English menu – or more precisely, the menu of dishes with French names and English descriptions – comprises six categories: Oyster Bar, a selection of seafood (NIS 28-98); Salads and Sandwiches (NIS 45-68); Entrées (NIS 38-54); Pasta (NIS 58-68); Main Courses (NIS 68-118); and Garnitures (side dishes) (NIS 18-26).

Chef Yehros agreed to bring us a tasting menu of his recommendations; as we waited, we started on the house bread (NIS 18): a crusty baguette, served with herbed butter and Dijon mustard. In the French fashion, the bread and butter with herbs of Provence was accompanied by slices of fresh radish.

We also ordered the Salade de Chèvre Brulée: mixed greens with discs of seared goat cheese and figs, tossed in a creamy champagne vinaigrette. The crisp greens, slightly salty cheese and sweet fruit combined to create a perfect summer salad.

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Our first entrée (appetizer) was the vegetable ravioli: razor-thin slices of kohlrabi and beet folded to resemble pasta pockets, then filled with whipped Roquefort cheese and sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts.

The wafer-thin vegetables wrapped around the zesty cheese and dotted with crunchy nuts added up to a wonderful interplay of flavors and textures.

Our cold appetizer was the Poisson Cru, the raw fish of the day, which was red tuna on a bed of crême fraîche, with dabs of pickled lemon.

The extremely fresh fish was enhanced nicely by the rich cream juxtaposed with the tart citrus and sprigs of dill.

As a pasta course, we had the Gnocchi Parisienne, feathery light pillows of Parmesan dumplings swimming in crême fraîche and interspersed with lightly grilled white carrot and zucchini. The delicate gnocchi melted in the mouth, but still managed to impart plenty of rich flavor, while the al dente vegetables added welcome crunch.

Our main course was the classic French canard à l’orange, duck in an orange gastrique. The duck thigh, accented perfectly by the sweet and spicy sauce, was absolutely succulent, and accompanied by tasty seared lettuce and buttery mashed potatoes that had the consistency of whipped.

The separate dessert menu was only in Hebrew, but the names of the three items (NIS 38-42), written in French, gave adequate clues. We elected the Blanc et Noir and the Millefeuille, the former as our chocolate choice, and the latter as the true test of a pastry chef.

Unfortunately, and much to our surprise, this is the one category where Hotel de Ville disappointed: the chocolate mousse was a tad too bittersweet, with hardly any “white” as counterpoint to the “black,” while the deconstructed millefeuille was not a puff pastry treat at all; instead, simple crackers were stuck into a pudding-like cream. As a consolation, the cream was admittedly very good – and you can’t go wrong with the accompanying fresh blueberries and figs.

This was not our only quibble of the evening. As the place filled up, becoming quite crowded for such a new venue, service grew a little spotty; and the tiny tables could barely contain portions meant for two people.

Still, it is cause for celebration that the talented Yehros is back, and turning out terrific French food, a cuisine that is a bit underrepresented in Israel.

(Note: Contrary to the printed menu, and the English-language website, for the time being, Hotel de Ville is open only in the evenings.

Eventually, the restaurant plans to offer a business lunch, and even serve breakfast.) The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Hotel de Ville Not kosher Dizengoff St. 230, Tel Aviv Tel. (03) 523-3186