Sunday, December 12, 2010
Expensive but exquisite
When it comes to fine dining, the Mul Yam seafood restaurant in the Tel Aviv Port may be in a class by itself.
On a Wednesday evening, my dining partner and I walked into the small, unassuming but elegant dining room of the Mul Yam restaurant in the Tel Aviv Port. In operation for 15 years, Mul Yam specializes in fish and seafood. With its windows facing the sea, the restaurant has created an atmosphere reminiscent of intimate Caribbean resort dining.
We were led to a corner table and immediately began to revel in the simple but tasteful decor: crisp white tablecloths, simple white plates and wooden shelves stacked with fine wines and aged whiskey, Armagnac and other spirits. We were offered a welcome drink of Pierre Gimonnet boutique French champagne and, based on the recommendation of our waitress, ordered a bottle of Chablis Premiere Cru les Fourneaux 2006, a light and smooth French white wine.
Mul Yam’s menu features specialty ingredients flown in fresh from across the globe, including live Canadian lobster, fresh Mediterranean fish and Italian mushrooms – not to mention the exquisite wine and spirits. The specials change weekly depending on the availability of fresh ingredients.
We started with a colorful array of appetizers chosen by the chef, including clams a la plancha, seared in-shell clams with crab vinaigrette and garlic confit (NIS 120); carpaccio yellowtail with roasted peppers, shitake mushrooms with pickled radish (NIS 120); and scallops in vinaigrette with watercress and champignon mushrooms (NIS 130). We especially enjoyed the hearty and flavorful scallops.
Our next course featured a creamy crab cappuccino soup with baby shrimp (a weekly special) and a truffle risotto with truffle foam and asparagus (NIS 190). The soup was surprisingly light in texture and strong in flavor, and I would recommend sharing this pungent dish. The risotto was absolutely fantastic and came with slices of whole truffles mixed in. Though risotto is not the featured dish at this seafood restaurant, it was one of the highlights of our meal.
For the main course, we chose the grilled fillet of grouper with asparagus and endive in pinot grigio sauce (NIS 200) and the whole lobster cooked sous-vide (a method of vacuum sealing and slow cooking) in porcini leek fondue and crab foam (NIS 250). Though the flavors of the lobster were succulent and the presentation was elegant, I found it a bit chewier than anticipated and preferred the meaty, perfectly grilled portion of grouper.
In addition to our main courses, we also tried a simple dish of asparagus with tomato tartar and Parmesan tuille (NIS 90). Amidst the variety of flavors we tasted was a consistent focus on fresh, wholesome flavors and ingredients and subtle, artistic presentation.
The restaurant’s internationally recognized chef Yoram Nitzan has been custom-designing the menu since the opening of the restaurant. We did not get a chance to speak with him, but did have a few words with the longtime sous chef, Kobi Bachar, who explained that the menu changes seasonally.
When it came time for dessert, we were presented with a variety of options recommended by pastry chef Tomer Cabiri. The most impressive was the Faberge egg – a thin crust of shiny red sugar with edible gold, filled with pistachio cream and cherries (NIS 70). This was one of the most interesting and varied desserts I have ever tasted and is even more impressive for its artistic presentation.
We also sampled the homemade chocolate pralines (NIS 40) and the chocolate feather, a mousse dish with layers of dark and milk chocolate (weekly special).
Not surprisingly, Cabiri was trained in Paris at the Cordon Bleu culinary institute. The presentation, taste and texture of the desserts were unprecedented in my experience of dining in Israel.
Dinner is served a la carte and is among the most expensive meals you will find in Israel. However, business lunch (NIS 150; NIS 175 on weekends and holidays) is available for those who want to experience Mul Yam without the high prices.
A place where top officials bring their honored guests, Mul Yam is one of the most elegant dining experiences Israel has to offer. And as far as seafood in Israel goes, the restaurant may be in a category of its own.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Mul Yam, Not kosher Hangar 24, Tel Aviv Port
Tel: (03) 546-9920