Saturday, June 4, 2011
Innovative and inviting
Josepha Bistro in Tel Aviv is a gem of a restaurant in the middle of Israeli balagan.
The Frishman and Dizengoff intersection in Tel Aviv is a patchwork of a neighborhood, stitched together by many shwarma and felafel stands, markets and clothing stores. In the heart of this vibrant area is a new restaurant, Josepha Bistro. The minute I walked into Josepha, I felt as if I had been transported to Barcelona. The owner, Effy, was a young child in Spain when his family made aliya. Josepha Bistro pays tribute to his heritage and is named after his grandmother, who Effy says was an amazing cook. Some of the entrees are recipes from his grandmother that had been passed down from generation to generation.
Brown comfortable chairs, wood paneling and light music immediately draw you in to the intimate and inviting bistro. Josepha is a gem in the middle of Israeli balagan! Although the bistro has been open for only three months, Effy has been in the restaurant business for 15 years in premium restaurants in Tel Aviv and Herzliya. The restaurant is open from noon for lunch until midnight or until the latest customer. Recently Josepha began serving a business lunch menu. The menus are in English and Hebrew, and in due time there will be one in French.
We started the evening with three starting dishes: the Caesar salad, beef carpaccio, and truffle soufflé with wild mushrooms and goat cheese. We paired these succulent appetizers with three white wines: Columbia Crest Two Vines Gewürztraminer from Washington State; Kiwi Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc from France; and Alamos Chardonnay from Argentina. Each wine is available in a glass for NIS 24 or a bottle for up to NIS 92. These are the only three white wines on the menu right now. Effy likes to change the wines every month, giving guests simple, high-quality choices. At first I was disappointed in the small wine selection, since I love a lot of options, and there was only one Israeli wine listed on the menu (Saslove). However, after talking with Effy about his vision and reasoning for offering only a select but quality amount, I realized this makes perfect sense for this special bistro.
The Caesar salad with aioli mustard dressing was light and delicious. It was not too big of a portion but it filled up a medium bowl. The beef carpaccio had a sweet and salty delicate taste that went well with all the white wines. The truffle soufflé with goat cheese in the middle was the favorite appetizer of the evening. It is an earthy and savory dish. My mouth waters even writing about it!
During the appetizers Effy came to sit with us and explain his background in the restaurant industry and his passion for quality food. It is important to him that his manager, waitresses and chef are professional, friendly and give the best service. Indeed, we found the customer service exceptional.
He also values presentation, and this was evident. The presentation for all the appetizers, entrees and desserts was impeccable and creative. There are only 20 dishes on the menu, and along with Effy’s innovative offerings, he also makes room for a classic hamburger and schnitzel. The clientele seemed as eclectic as the menu. We noticed tourists, Israelis with an interest in fine food, and businessmen. I got the feeling that it is not a restaurant for children under 10 years old.
The dinner consisted of some spectacular dishes and wines. The wines we drank were the Cerro Anon Crianza from Rioja, Spain, and the Milton Park Shiraz from Australia. We enjoyed the tender entrecote with a red wine and cinnamon reduction, with a side dish of sweet potato and roasted potato squares. The entrecote is one of the best I have eaten since I moved to Israel three years ago. The white fish was plated over grilled vegetables and fresh herbs. The fish was remarkably light and did not have a “fishy taste."
We ended the evening with some amazing desserts. Josepha changes their desserts every night, but they usually have crème brule and a chocolate dish available. We enjoyed the crème brule, chocolate espresso and chocolate soufflé. The chocolate espresso came in a martini glass with a scoop of light chocolate ice cream. It was refreshing, not too sweet and sugary and a great way to end the evening. The crème brule was just right, with a nice coating of crispy caramel. The chocolate soufflé had a fantastic presentation and was like a Death by Chocolate with a shot of chocolate, scoop of chocolate ice cream and a dark chocolate sculpture. Not your ordinary chocolate soufflé!
We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our experience at Josepha and give it an A+. We recommend it to tourists, locals and foodies.
Josepha is located at Frishman 41, Tel Aviv. (03) 522-1163. Not kosher.