Tel Aviv’s fine dynamic dining scene is in a constant state of flux, with the newest hippest contenders vying for a spot at the top of the list. The newbie’s entry into the market is usually a grand opening type of affair, revealing a million shekel renovation and a hot young staff. Sometimes the food is pretty good too.
Chef Charlie Fadida, who has, of late, taken the helm at Olive Leaf, is going about the entire process backwards - transforming a once banal ‘hotel restaurant’ into a prime culinary destination by working round the clock…in the kitchen. The pricy renovation may still be in the planning stages (though the gorgeous sea-facing picture window sufficiently compensates for the un-trendy decor), but in the meantime Fadida has built Olive Leaf a solid foundation of excellent food and knowledgeable and professional staff.
Sarah and I, deciding that elegant fine dining and a breathtaking sunset is most certainly suited to a ladies night out, began with a couple glasses of red off the all-Israeli wine list and fresh bread served on a slab of tree trunk. Once the sun had set and our oohing and ahhing subsided, we moved on to a few starters, each dish lovelier than the next.
First came the seared red tuna with tabouleh, avocado and thin triangles of crisp flour tortilla. Next was a gorgeous eggplant and sea bream dish which incorporated a small filet of tender sea bream over a chunk of charred eggplant meat, ultra-smoky eggplant cream and adorable eggplant chips for decoration – and a fun little crunch. Finally, the starter parade ended with the goose liver trio – an outstanding pate, an elegant liver stuffed ravioli and a pan-seared liver escalope. At this point it had become clear that the understated yet playfully elegant beauty of Fadida’s dishes more than hold their own against the stunning sea view.
During our short and chatter filled break between starters and main, Sarah and I noted that Chef Fadida has succeed big time in infusing Olive Leaf with modern style and flavour. The next dish to arrive was one of spring chicken skewers presented on an antique iron (from when they were actually made of iron), accompanied by majadra, a traditional Middle Eastern rice and lentil dish. Though a simple dish, the inspired rustic plating leant the dish a refreshing sense of playfulness against the formal dining backdrop. The other main we sampled was a succulent veal chop with gorgeous beetroot risotto and couple pieces of bright spring-green asparagus. We both agreed that this dish was outstanding, and amazingly, the risotto felt fresh rather than heavy.
By dessert we were more than satiated, so we weren’t able to give our full attention to the charming dish containing coconut cream, a mango and blackberry salad, sfinj (Morrocan doughnuts, a throwback to Chef Fadida’s roots) and mini chocolate covered pistachio ice cream bar. It was time to call it a night.
Oh, and one more thing. The Olive Leaf is kosher! Turns out ‘kosher’ and ‘hotel’ can be synonymous with modern and delicious.
115 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv