If Lilit were merely a good restaurant - that would suffice; if Lilit were merely a kosher restaurant – that would suffice; if Lilit were merely a project center for aiding youth in peril – that would suffice; if Lilit were only a restaurant in a prime location and of a pleasant atmosphere – that would suffice. However Lilit is all of those things, and in addition, just happens to be a great restaurant. What more could one ask for?
We already knew Lilit in her previous location, in the heart of the city, as well as her previous menu, a dairy one (ah… the grand chocolate cheese cake that was served there… what I wouldn’t give for another bite…). Due to our frequent visits to the courthouses across the street, we also knew of Lilit’s new location, in which there used to be a restcafe that we occasionally sat in with clients and colleagues (but we did not really shed a tear when it closed). So we headed over to Lilit with the sensation of heading toward the familiar. As it turned out, it was a combination of the known and unknown, because the interior designer managed, with minimum fuss and without touching the flooring and the large bar in the center of the space, to alter the atmosphere in the place to one that fills the patrons with warmth, coziness, and calm – a job well done.
We took our seats and a plate of excellent bread and the house focaccia arrived, along with a saucer of olive oil adorned with chili chipotle for livening up the palate and the time until the first courses arrived. With all the spirit and will-power we could muster, we fought off the urge to agree to the offer for more bread, and saved some room for the food to come.
The first courses here represent a challenge to any chef: show us what you can do when there is no cooking involved… and he showed us, indeed. White sashimi plamida is a creation in which every bite let’s one discover new flavors: tomato seeds, fennel, olives, and thin slices of chili – whatever you happen to catch with your fork on that particular bite. However, I, being the carnivore that I am, found the Tataki sirloin to be even better: the sirloin cut is slightly seared before being thinly sliced, and is served with green cucumbers, sliced thin to near transparency, and accompanied with a gentle ginger sauce, soy, and sesame oil, and gave a hint of the wonders this kitchen can do with meat. Just wait and listen.
But first, here’s a story. Around 20 years ago, I had two meat dishes which shaped my culinary consciousness. The first was the first real hamburger I had in my life, which I had in the cafeteria of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. The second was my first real shawarma, which I had in a market in Anatolia. Those memories of flavor and aroma resulted in two opposite effects: whereas the hamburger I had at the MoMA resulted in my ordering a hamburger in nearly every subsequent restaurant in an attempt to recapture the flavor, the memory of the shawarma in Anatolia nearly made me stop ordering shawarma for good.
The wonderful first courses encouraged me to order shawarma, which could only be described as entirely unlike th shawarma I” had in Anatolia, and yet at the same time, styled just like it. It was served over the house pita bread, which soaked up all the soon-to-be-listed flavors. Over the pita was a concoction of roasted tomatoes, which preserved the flavors of the vegetables and even accentuated them, and a puree of roasted eggplant, taking the place of the classic yoghurt. Over this, cuts of entrecote were, prepared with scientific exactness were piled. A dish that remains faithful to its original ingredients and the wonderful result of combining them, but which rises to a level undreamed of in Anatolia. A dish for the taste of which I would be willing – and am prepared to commit – to make a special journey.
The hamburger was our second selection and it was, how shall I put this? Simply magical. Grilled on the outside and dark-red on