Our shared mileage in the restaurant lane, has led us to one ironclad rule: no experimentation on our wedding-anniversaries. We reached this insight after having, on one particular occasion, succumbed to the temptation of celebrating our special day, based on a sheer hunch, at some French restaurant which has since closed down (and all for the best). Not only that, but we also took along the parents. The result was a meal in which nothing was elevated, aside from the prices. Since then we learned some valuable lessons: anniversaries are to be celebrated by the couple of alone and only in places in which enjoyment is to be guaranteed. Le Relais Jaffa is a good example. Even after nearly 20 years, “Le Relais” continues to keep up the class and the charm. When we get there, we know that all will go in our favor: Hanni, the owner will be charming as she always is, the dishes will stem from classic French cuisine, they will be carefully prepared, the server will know exactly when to clear one course off the table and bring the next course in line, the atmosphere will be chic and pleasant, and we will truly celebrate. Boy, will we celebrate!
The motto here is classicism, with no glances cast towards fashionable trends. No bed of quinoa or tabouleh by the fish. At the most, there will be seasonal updates, such as the soups which have recently made a return due to the cold weather. From this selection, we savor a thick and delicious yam and squash soup, enriched by truffle oil and pine-nuts. Another novelty, this time in the wine department, is the strong presence of the Teperberg boutique wines, from which we select a rich and smooth merlot sauvignon.
Then it is on to the menu. My husband does not suffer from any indecision on the matter. He wants exactly the dishes he loved so much the last time he was here and in the time before that – Tarte Provencal for the first courses and duck shank for the entr?e. Hanni, for her part, tries to diversify and serves the Tarte Provencal in a more festive version. Usually the dish is comprised of puff pastry stuffed with onion preserves in balsamic, topped with a tomato baked in herbs and again topped with roasted mushroom. This time, the mushroom is replaced with a seared slice of foie gras, which goes remarkably well with the sweetened cuantro sauce which accompanies the dish. My first course is belini with smoked salmon, a dish which can serve as a light meal on its own – 2 airy belini pancakes, topped with smoked salmon, lightly seasoned with capers and accompanied by a refreshing green salad.
Hanni maintains her innovative spirit with the entrees as well, and suggests to my husband to convert the duck shank, with which he is so familiar with a course of mallard, another of the restaurant’s banner dishes. Mallard meat is meat with character, less fattening but of a wilder taste than that of the common goose, and the honey sauce complements it and accentuates its flavors. For my entr?e, dear friends, I go all out, tornado Rossini, no less. True, it is the most expensive meal in the restaurant but hey, it is our anniversary! And a dish like this is definitely a cause for celebration: a perfect cut of beef fillet together with seared foie gras.
To go with the meats are saut?ed vegetables and baked potatoes in herbs, which make for a worthy complement to the meat and which rightly don’t steal the show.
For dessert we decide to not decide. So we are served a sampler plate of 3 desserts: cr?me caramel, lemon parfait with fruit, and halvah parfait in caramel syrup. They are all kosher, being based on soy milk, something that does not preclude them from being delicious.
Thus endeth the feast. We make a promise to ourselves and to Hanni to return on our next anniversary, or on another celebratory occasion, whichever comes first.
Le Relais Jaffa
7 Bat Ami, Noga Theatre pedestrian mall, Jaffa (Yafo).