Seven dishes for 70 years

To mark Israel’s 70th anniversary, the Tel Aviv Hilton has come up with a creative culinary concept – a seven-course tasting menu that showcases the spices and herbs, fish and cheeses that are typical of Israeli cuisine.

Executive chef Rafik Jabarin, who hails from Um-al-Fahm, a large Arab town in the North, has devised a menu that can be shared by two diners (NIS 253). It might not do for gourmand carnivores who love a plate overflowing with food, but for us it was perfect.

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We sat outside in the newly refurbished lobby terrace, which is an extension of the indoor restaurant. It was a cool blustery day, and the air was fresh and exhilarating. Probably a better time to go would be at sunset to watch the glorious ever-changing sky over the ocean, but we chose a daytime visit and enjoyed every moment.

Two cocktails had been specially created for Israel’s 70th birthday. The Independence Mule was made of vodka, lime, ginger beer, apricot syrup and almond syrup (NIS 63). The ginger overpowered every other flavor, but as we are ginger fans, that was just fine.

The Margarita 70 (NIS 63) had tequila and lime, with the addition of lychee liqueur, pomegranate juice and watermelon syrup. Both drinks were a bit too sweet for our taste, and the kick was muted. But, to be fair, they gave an Israeli twist to classic cocktails.

The first course to arrive consisted of three dips served with a seed-encrusted roll. The dips were yogurt with crushed tomato, garlic confit, and zucchini spread with labaneh cheese. All were delicious and augured well for what was to come.

Next up was Jerusalem–style fish tartare with tehina, goat’s yogurt, sumac and mint. This platter was as esthetic as it was flavorful. The chopped raw fish was sea bream (Denis) and had a strong minty flavor with no fishy taste, attesting to the freshness of the fish. The various garnishes made for a great mix of flavors.

The third course was eggplant caviar, a true Middle East classic. The aubergine had a delightful smoky flavor, and the local Hameiri cheese was excellent, like feta but not as salty and very creamy. The Hameiri Cheese Factory is located in Safed and has been producing cheese for a long time.

Course Four was gray mullet shwarma with tehina, msabbaha (a variation of hummus) and spicy tomato sauce. The seared chunks of fish were very fresh, and a faint curry flavor pervaded the dish.

Next came tabbouleh salad served with a very large flat falafel cutlet. The last course in the savory department was fish and eggplant seniya with tomato sauce. Delectable.

One dessert – the seventh course – was a knafeh made with sweet cream cheese topped with crushed pistachios, served with citrus syrup. It was just the thing to sweeten the end of a memorable meal.

Motti Verses, Hilton’s PR director who thought up the idea for the seven-course tasting menu, has other exciting plans. During the World Cup event in Russia in June, the Tel Aviv Hilton’s restaurant will screen the games on a giant screen, and Russian snacks and beverages will be served.

The executive chef has the last word: “We don’t need French cuisine to be on the culinary map,” says Jabarin, who studied in Haifa and around the world. “We have the best fresh foods – herbs, fish and cheeses – all native to Israel.”

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Hilton Hotel Kosher 205 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 520-2222