This is What Friends are for

“For the first course: balls of risotto and wild rice with mozzarella and parmesan. An excellent dish, quite delicious, and one which fulfills the purpose of a first course…” Nadav Avidan wishes to thank his friends who recommended he go to Tazza D’Oro in Tel Aviv. Instead of flowers, he got coffee.

The holidays always put me in a mood to spend some quality time with myself. All the decadent holiday meals, all the distant relatives… at some point I feel that I have to be alone for a while before being quizzed for the umpteenth on when I plan to marry. Usually, this alone time involves a morning at the beach with a good novel, or watching a long-put-off movie. This year I decided to go and seek out a good coffee house – one that I will enjoy sitting in even if I came there alone.

Cyberspace, as you may know, has no shortage of superlatives for each coffee shop that props up on the landscape, and it is a bit difficult to discern which one of these numerous choices is the place for me. So, I sought an alternative – I asked a few of my friends, those whose opinions on such matters I value, under the assumption that if a given coffee house is recommended more than once, it is probably a worthy choice. Indeed, only one name came up in all the recommendation lists I was given – Tazza D’Oro in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood. Well, I decided that it was time to check it out for myself, and see why everyone seems to know of this place’s existence and I myself do not. And so, with a sense of purpose, humility, and with a wish to have a good time, I arrived at Tazza D’Oro.

Much as been written about the beautiful and picturesque Neve Tzedek neighborhood and about the leisurely hangouts she offers. For my tastes, Tazza D’Oro is the jewel in the crown of the whole charming area. Within seconds of entering, I was overtaken by a different sensation. The place was full, but not too crowded, and as I sat at the bar, I was immediately greeted with a smile by Nir the barman, who handed me a menu. Let me cut the narrative flow for a second and say that Tazza’s menu is among the best I have seen, and not just because we are dealing with a place that has for over eight years refused to call itself a restaurant. The selection of dishes is simply impressive, and the combinations of tastes in each one is intriguing. In short, looking over this menu definitely got my appetite going.

For the first course I chose, after some consultation with Nir and the waitress, balls of risotto and wild rice with mozzarella and parmesan, served over a bed of mushrooms and mash (a South American legume). An excellent dish, quite delicious, and one which fulfills the purpose of a first course – to whet one’s appetite for what’s to come, as opposed to simply filling one up, like other openers I have had when dining out.

When I was through, I was asked if I am ready for the main course – thinly cut sirloin, grilled with a meat broth, served over potato puree, and seared tomato and onion. It is, in fact, no small cut of meat, which at first looks like a challenge, but after the first bite it becomes apparent that when it comes to Tazza D’Oro’s dishes, there is no such thing as too much. The course was finished before anyone could say “espresso.”

At this point in the meal, the conversation with Nir livened up. From what he told me of the coffee shop, I understood why I liked it so – all the food is prepared on-site, and I mean all of it. At Tazza D’Oro, they know one thing for sure – one should do what one knows best, as opposed to trying to do some of everything and winding up with a mediocre result. Emphasis has also been placed on the atmosphere and attention paid to all details great and small – leisurely d?cor, spacious and simple, never going for pretension, and yet providing an intimacy that is rare for a coffee house.
The music also plays no small part in creating the atmosphere. The light jazz music that played throughout the evening added to the peaceful comfort. All these touches reaffirmed my sense that Tazza D’Oro sees each customer as a personal guest, and every detail is designed to make you feel as such.

Then the special dessert arrived – chocolate Fondant with roasted almonds and apricot sorbet. What could be so sp