The famous saying is that “you are what you eat.” Perhaps, but I think that when it comes to food, you serve what you are. If you are a warm, friendly, hospitable person who pays attention to detail and who improves the feelings of those around you, chances are that the food you prepare and serve will match your personality. Oh, you also need to know how to expertly select choice ingredients and carefully prepare delicious meals, but how hard could that possibly be?
Two things struck Daphna and I when we entered Le Relais Jaffa restaurant, located on Jaffa’s Noga Theater pedestrian mall. The first one was the unexpected spaciousness - high ceilings held up by pillars towering above a large dining hall, adorned by beautiful vases, and arched windows. The second thing was the very warm greeting by Hanni Bitton who owns and operates Le Relais Jaffa together with her husband David, who is originally from Marrakesh. Hanni has a way of making her guests feel right at home. Before the meal, she took us for a tour of the restaurant grounds, presenting the large exterior garden with its grand Moroccan tents fit for kingly celebrations. There is also a private room for closed gatherings or corporate functions. The building was a relay station (Relais) in Jaffa during the British Mandate. Hanni and her husband worked hard to restore it and bring out its charm.
We started off with some sangria and kir royale from the bar, both very refreshing in the heat of July. Hanni joined us to chat, as we munched on warm bread rolls, olive tapenade, and margarine with garlic and capers. Hanni made the time pass with warm conversation. Before we knew it, the first courses arrived: a slightly crispy sirloin carpaccio in balsamic; millefeuille with saut?ed mushrooms in basil; and goose liver p?t? served with small triangles of toast and sweet pumpkin confiture. All three were expertly-prepared and delicious, my personal favorite being the wonderful p?t?.
Afterwards we sipped some nice red wine, courtesy of the Teperberg Winery. For her entr?e, Daphna selected the entrecote steak with mustard and pepper sauces on the side. The steak was juicy and flavorful, and in my opinion did not need the enhancement of a sauce. Daphna preferred the pepper sauce to the mustard one and highly approved of the fine meat. I opted for the breast of Moulard (a hybrid of the Pekin and Muscovy ducks), sliced and fanned out on the plate and served with pepper sauce over root vegetables. The duck meat was savory, the sauce complementary, and the vegetables were properly cooked.
For dessert, we enjoyed a selection of dishes: halvah Parfait with caramel, lemon parfait, chocolate charlotte, assorted sorbets, and chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream. Our favorite of these was the wonderful fondant, filled with rich warm chocolate alongside the cool sweet ice cream.
There’s something that should be made clear. All of the dishes described in this article are 100% kosher. It is a myth that quality gourmet cuisine is not compatible with kashrut law. Hanni explained to us that Le Relais Jaffa manages the feat of being a fine kosher French restaurant by never trying to create essentially non-kosher dishes by using kosher imitations. Instead, they carefully select specific kosher ingredients that harmoniously mix to create their flavorful dishes.
After dinner we each enjoyed a snifter of Calvados apple brandy and soaked up the atmosphere for a while. We then parted with Hanni, whose wonderful personality is a part of each and ever bite of the food she serves.
Le Relais Jaffa
7 Bat Ammi St, Tel Aviv
Phone: 03-6810637, 03-6811749