Bistro Tamara

"Ginger was thrilled to see one of his very favourite treats smack dab in the centre of the set menu: Baby pork ribs slow cooked in honey garlic sauce. Pork ribs aren't my favourite, but these were worth stealing bites of…" Rachel Wagner and partner discover some old school style and a mighty fine meal on Jazz Saturdays at Bistro Tamara in Tel Aviv.

We'd been looking forward to Saturday night all week long. No, it wasn't a crazy club or a hip party that we were all excited about, rather, live jazz night at Tamara, a sophisticated and somewhat old school style bistro. Slowly but surely inching our way towards the top of that hill we'd one day be over, a double bass and quality steak seemed far more appealing than a dark bar and eardrum blasting soundtrack.

Not having checked my planner as I should have, Ginger and I arrived about 20 minutes ahead of show time, so a large and satisfied looking party was still occupying the space where the trio would soon set up. In the meantime, we were attentively seated by Nir, the restaurant manager, and left to peruse the menu. Before long, the jazz started up and the lights went down, transforming the sparingly decorated room into something stylish and romantic. Sigh…what a lovely way to end off the week.

Tamara's menu is a bit longer than the average restaurant of the same vein, offering plenty of options for meat eaters, seafood lovers and vegetarians alike. We, being much more of the former, thought about starting with the grilled calamari and gravlax, but upon the urging of manager Nir, selected the gnocchi in cream instead of the gravlax for a little variety.

And how right he was: the gnocchi was lightly pan fried and submerged in a tomato cream sauce with bits of sundried tomatoes and walnuts adding an extra punch. After the last gnocchi disappeared, we introduced the house bread to this delectable sauce. The calamari was also a good choice. Fresh and light, the perfectly grilled pieces of calamari were dressed in lemon, garlic, fresh tomatoes and capers and provided a nice contrast to the rich gnocchi, not filling us up too much before the main event.

This is probably a good place to point out that so far, our selections have been included in the 3 course set evening menu for NIS 89, an outstanding price for food of this quality (not to mention that live jazz on the house). For our mains, I selected a dish not on the set menu – a fine cut of filet, cooked just as I'd asked (just north of rare) – but Ginger was thrilled to see one of his very favourite treats smack dab in the centre of the set menu for a fair surcharge: Baby pork ribs slow cooked in honey garlic sauce. Pork ribs aren't my favourite, but these were worth stealing bites of. It's hard to find fault with this sort of fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth divineness. I was also excited to see that beneath my steak were some crisp bright green beans – quality vegetable is all too often neglected.

Along with our mains came mashed potatoes with butter, or should I say butter with mashed potatoes (not that I'm complaining, but Ginger found them a bit rich) and sweet and spicy baked quarters of sweet potato which had been drizzled in silan (date honey). We also enjoyed a glass of the current house special wine – Rhyton Red 2005 from the Amphorae Vineyard which is starting to 'open nicely' and should be 'drunk now' according to Israeli wine expert Daniel Rogov. We gladly drunk up.

After such a meal, we decided to once again heed Nir's sage advice and go for the lighter dessert options: Afugato (vanilla ice cream covered in shot of espresso) and chocolate mousse. I'm not really sure how Nir felt 'light' was the appropriate term for this particularly sinful 70% Belgian chocolate choice…well, I suppose it was airy and couldn't have weighed all that much…but once again we thoroughly enjoyed. The afugato proved a refreshing end to the meal, or would have, had I not kept going back for one last bite of mousse.

As we were finishing up dessert, the trio had just ended their first set. With a work week ahead, we decided that set number two would have to wait for another Saturday night, when we'd surely be back for more.

Bistro Tamara
95 HaHashmonaim, Tel Aviv
Tel: 03-6240707