Published On: Tue, Jun 28th, 2016

A popular new restaurant in Lewinsky Market

Review: Dalida is that rare combination of a casual tavern with a chef who trained in a Michelin starred restaurant in France; the dominant cuisine is Arabic, with Italian, French and even Japanese influences

 

The unassuming exterior and rather funky interior is not what I had expected from a restaurant about whose food I had heard so much, but it is easy to settle in and relax at Dalida. The young and friendly bilingual staff quickly bring a dish of nicely seasoned white fava beans to the table, with a carafe of water, lemon slices and menus in Hebrew and English for both food and alcohol.

Dalida has a satellite bar across the street, but the restaurant also has a well-stocked bar, which mixes eight specialty cocktails. Each house cocktail—like all drinks, including wine and beer—come in three sizes: glass, carafe and liter pitcher.

We ordered two of these cocktails: a Punch Berlin and a long margarita. The former blends white wine, vodka, and ginger ale with pieces of fresh fruit apple and pear and sprigs of mint. The drink needs to be left to steep for a while in order to be infused with the fruit, but it still tastes mostly of wine and mint.

The long margarita, meanwhile—tequila, orange liqueur and ginger ale, with a lemon wedge—is really no improvement over a classic margarita; nevertheless, both this and the Punch Berlin are refreshing drinks on a warm summer’s day or evening.

 

FOOD ISRAEL Dalida restaurant Baked fennel with olives salad

 

The food menu is divided into three categories of dishes by size: small, medium and large. In addition, there are seasonal specials that change every few months.

Our waitress recommended starting with one of Dalida’s most popular appetizers: spicy feta brûlée. This creation of Chef Dan Zoaretz is certainly inventive: salty white cheese turned pink from being seasoned generously with hot paprika, under a crust of burnt sugar. The zingy contrast of sweet with spicy is positively addictive, and reason enough for a return visit. Although this dish is in the small category, it is actually quite filling when spread on the accompanying half-loaf of crusty rustic bread.

Our second small plate was the lamb kebab: two tiny ground lamb patties in tehina with roasted white onion. The surprise ingredient here is pistachio; the succulent kebabs burst into flavor with each bite.

Our salad selection was the baked fennel with olives, dried cranberries, caraway and mint. dressed lightly with raw tehina. The fennel, which had been marinated in a confit of garlic and lemon, had a muted, mellow taste enhanced by the sweetness of the dried fruit. All in all, the dish, which was served on lafa, was distinctive and well-balanced.

 

FOOD ISRAEL Dalida restaurant Brioche and steak.

 

Our waitress’s second recommendation of the evening was the brioche steak, which certainly sounded intriguing—not least because I like both brioche and steak. Except she forgot to explain that the steak refers not to beef but rather the especially thick slab of the soft bread. The disappointment did not last long, however, since the brioche was flanked by two bones filled with rich marrow and drenched in a beef and hibiscus stock. The gravy, while quite good, fortunately did not seep into the hollow of the bone or overwhelm the rich, succulent marrow. The superb dish was accented by a delicate Jerusalem artichoke cream, robust whole chestnuts, and an actual hibiscus flower.

 

As the fresh fish of the day was trout, we chose that for our main course. Unusually, the filet was served in strips, alternated with roasted greens, king brown mushrooms, and caramelized carrots, as well as smears of kohlrabi cream and dabs of purslane and sorrel pesto. The pink fish, served at room temperature, was perfectly cooked and simply melted in the mouth. The sides added to the presentation, but not much to the flavor, which was fine: the fish needed nothing additional to improve on it, except maybe for the occasional dab of the herb pesto. You won’t find better than this even in a restaurant that specializes in fish and seafood.

Our main courses were washed down nicely with Dalida’s signature red sangria.

The six desserts on the menu presented us with some tough choices, which we whittled down to the cannoli and what looked to be a chocolate extravaganza.

The cannoli were filled with a mascarpone cream infused with Zacapa rum and served on an iced tropical fruit salad. The pastry wrapping was fortified with chia seeds, rendering it crisper, while the cream filling was heavenly.

 

FOOD ISRAEL Dalida restaurant Pepper creme brulee

 

The dessert named “I love chocolate” featured chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell atop a round almond financier, alongside a slew of other exotic ingredient, including cardamom caramel, pralines with the consistency of soft fudge, 70 percent chocolate brûlée—like mousse on steroids—salted pretzel nougatine and banana chips, all garnished with creme patissière. It is delicious fun playing with all these flavors and textures.

Dalida has some creative pricing policies, such as weekday cinq-à-sept hours when most dishes are half-price, and sharing menus for four to seven people. It is worth checking for occasional promotions as well—whatever makes it affordable to try this place at least once.

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