It had been almost a year since my last visit to Olive Leaf, the gourmet kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv’s Sheraton Hotel. John and I arrived on a strange dusty night in late spring to check out the new summer menu I’d been hearing about. The truth was I had extremely high hopes, knowing that Chef Charlie Farida had spent the last couple years taking Olive Leaf from once banal hotel restaurant into a prime culinary destination.
We started off our tasting with nothing less than the ultimate refreshing summer salad – julienned celery, apple, beet and walnuts dressed in silan (date honey) vinaigrette. My only beef was the salad’s official name – Health Salad is somewhat misleading for such a crisp flavourful treat.
Next came the Goose Liver Terrine with cherry tomato jam, Muscat wine jelly and homemade thinly sliced walnut raisin toasts. The terrine was heaven (says this former liver hater) – not too fatty, with excellent rustic texture – and the accompaniments were simultaneously sophisticated and playful. The cherry tomatoes literally burst with flavour while the jiggling strips of Muscat jelly required some amusing chasing-after before they’d settle onto a smear of terrine.
From this point we went into high gear tasting mode, with Chef Farida sending out a special tasting portions fish platter: 3 mini portions of some of this summers finest. One end of the rectangular plate held a sea bream filet with tapioca, micro sprouts and lemon-saffron sauce. On the other end rested oven-baked grey mullet in Moroccan spices and braised artichoke and carrot salad. Dead centre was a pan-seared piece of red tuna with a light julienned salad. John and I immediately agreed that the seam bream was our favourite (mind you, I’m usually partial to sea bream – a lovely somewhat firmly texture white salt-water fish). This preparation elevated sea bream to a whole new level – never had I tasted such a satisfying butter-free sauce. The artichoke salad accompanying the grey mullet was another stand out, with meaty well-spiced slices of artichoke holding their own against the grey a mullet – heavier and slightly fishier than sea bream. The tuna – bright red centre against the orange and bright spring greens in the salad – fed the eyes as well the stomach, making me think once again that Chef Farida aught to take up painting in his retirement.
After a brief grapefruit and Campari sorbet refresher, we moved onto the meat course with our palates thoroughly cleansed.
First came the Mallard Breast – an outstanding dish! The rare brightly coloured duck breast was served sliced in the traditional style with grilled wedges of nectarine (perfect for summer!) and a small rectangle of potato gratin (another wondrous dairy-free feat). Lip smacking our way through this dish until not even a morsel remained, it was no surprise that we were a little intimidated by the large square plate containing three pieces of beef filet that came next.
The filet was tender as can be, and not too salty considering (kosher filet and I are not usually the best of friends). The accompanying asparagus, caramelized shallots, little cubes of hash brown style potatoes and red wine sauce were charmingly arranged in sort of side-dish checkerboard next to the beef. The sauce was certainly a hit with John, who didn’t regret asking for some more of the home-baked Moroccan bread to sop up the remains.
For dessert we were treated to another rectangle tasting trio: a chocolate volcano, fruit salsa and scoop of passion fruit sorbet. We once again saw eye-to-eye on our favourite, going spoon-to-spoon on the fruity perfect-for-summer sorbet.
A final note about Olive Leaf’s new summer menu: the prices are as refreshing as the dishes. With 8 of the 10 main courses under the NIS 80 mark, there is all the more incentive to indulge in some fine dining against a backdrop of one of city’s best picture window views of the sea. P.s. The sun sets between 19:30 and 20:00 – book accordingly!
115 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv