The owner and namesake, Armando, has a strict philosophy behind his restaurant: it does not matter who dines here, all will be served the same delicious food that has become his trademark. He believes in the tastiness and simplicity of his dishes, taking great care to pick the freshest ingredients and bring out their natural flavors. The food at Armando can be categorized as Israeli Mediterranean and the restaurant has grabbed a prime location on the Tel Aviv Promenade facing the sea. The food is kosher and the clientele is diverse, ranging in ages, nationalities and religious observance. Most of all, the diners seem to know where to find good food and a beautiful place to enjoy it while watching the sunset over the Mediterranean.
As soon as we sat down, we were served a variety of Israeli salads with fresh bread. A few of the salads are worth special mention, standing out in their unique tastes beyond the traditional. The pumpkin salad with roasted peppers had a bit of a spicy kick mixed in with the soft sweet flavors of the ingredients. The pickled lemon was also delicious with a bit of spice to it and the eggplant salad was deliciously creamy. As we learned in the later appetizers, Armando knows his eggplant.
After spending a bit of time with these small salads and a couple glasses of the house cabernet sauvignon, we received a simple salad of fresh tomatoes, lettuce and onion and the eggplant baladi. Although this dish can be found in many restaurants, Armando knows how to prepare it just right. The eggplant was soft and delicious on the inside, the outside seared for those who like a bit of crunch with this dish. The tehini on top was also a delightful compliment with a strong taste of garlic.
After all this, we had to think about what we would like to order for our entrées. Lindsay opted for a fish dish, ordering the grilled sea bass at as per the owner’s recommendation. I went with the 350g entrecote steak. The fish arrived whole from the grill, steaming with a bit of coarse sea salt and lemon. The steak, prepared just right at medium, arrived on a steaming cast-iron skillet with a roasted tomato and onion on the side. Both entrées were lovely and went along well with the plate of thinly sliced roasted rosemary and olive oil potatoes.
Sitting for a chat with the owner, Armando, we understood clearly that his objective is to create a solid, tasty and enjoyable dining experience. He has been a chef for many years and lived in both Canada and New York for extended periods of time. Gathering fodder for his restaurant and experience in his life, when asked about Israel, a smile appeared on his face and he exclaimed, “This is the greatest place in the world, nowhere else I would rather be.”
Our visit coincided with the 7th night of Hannukah and we were privileged to share a moment with all the clientele in the restaurant. Our meal began quietly and around 9 p.m. things started to pick up. All the guests stopped their meal and lit the candles together. Armando offered free sufganiyot to everyone and there was a general feeling of being taken care of. The servers also contributed to the dining experience by being attentive without hovering, and answering our every request with a smile. One gets the sense that the familial atmosphere at Armando extends beyond the patrons to the servers, chefs and hostess. The general feeling is that the staff at Armando is delighted to invite you to take part in a culinary experience.