Along Emek Refaim are a motley collection of restaurants ranging from fast food to haute cuisine. Sushi Bar Rechavia trends towards the higher end of the spectrum. My wife and I enjoyed a quiet dinner for two at this busy restaurant. We were fortunate to have our meal sponsored by dear friends of ours. Not to seem ungrateful, the restaurant was overall a pleasant and delicious experience. When billing as a high-end restaurant, though, consider that your clientèle are more discriminating, and therefore expectations are higher. While this might seem like nit-picking to some, it is nothing more than my professional evaluation, and not a review. It is perhaps how I would do things.
The waitress who sat us and handed us our menus was lovely and polite, but she didn’t introduce herself so we never knew her name. What impressed me the most is that she took our order entirely by memorizing our selection, which is a feat that I have experienced only once before, at a small trattoria called Tevere 84 in Manhattan. I only hoped that she would get our order right, which she did.
We were seated outside; the inside of the restaurant was impenetrable. When offering outside seating in the winter, I would offer guests a teapot with hot tea, rather than water; it’s classy and doesn’t impact the bottom line significantly. And, when bringing water to adults, the waitresses should omit the straw unless specifically requested. Speaking of classy, is it too much to ask for waitstaff to be dressed in jeans for a restaurant of this caliber? If the burger jocks in Burger King can wear ties, the waitresses here can wear skirts or slacks.
Thanks to the generosity of our friends, we ordered a tremendous amount of food for just the two of us. For appetizers, we ordered mushroom tempura, chicken wings, and steak skewers. I ordered the miso soup and one roll of sea bass sushi as well. For dinner we had the Pad Thai and the Shanghai Beef.
The mushrooms were crisp and tasty. However, the sauce for the dish was drizzled over the mushrooms, making them soggy too quickly. If they weren’t so good, they might have turned to mush on the plate before we finished them.
The chicken wings were the usual sticky sweet wings that you commonly find throughout Israel. They were delicious and quickly devoured, but the over-garnishing of the sesame seeds clashed with the more delicate flavor of this dish.
The beef on this appetizer was near-perfect, soft and tender and well-flavored. But again, what’s with all the sesame seeds? It interfered with the flavor again.
This was an utter disappointment. It was too salty, to swampy, just a wreck in the bowl. I’m all for the new kid helping out in the kitchen, but at least the chef should taste it before it goes out to the customer. In a word: blech.
Sea Bass Sushi
This was my first roll of sea bass sushi, and it was sweet, mild and dead-on delicious. I’m a big wasabi and ginger guy, and I couldn’t eat the sushi with either because they totally masked the fish. The roll was enjoyed without accompaniment, and a big hit of the evening. For me, at least. My wife wouldn’t touch it.
“The only thing you can taste is the sauce, and the eggplant, which tastes like… eggplant.” This was a promising sounding dish on the menu, but in reality, the meat skewer appetizer was much better.
This is the new trendy dish in Far East cooking. I must admit that they did an excellent job of it. The chicken was tender, perfectly cooked. The cellophane noodles had just the right amount of tooth. The sweet and sour were perfectly balanced. And the best part was that with all the appetizers, I was able to bring the remainder of my large portion home with me to enjoy the next day.
What disappointed me the most was that there was obviously no one in control in the kitchen. When ordering soup, appetizer and a main, as well as desert, the meal as to be brought out in stages, with the dishes from the previous course cleared from the table first. For those who are interested in a bit of trivia, it is called “service à la russe,” or in the Russian style, which is now the standard (or should be) for good restaurants and formal dining. By contrast, service à la française (“service in the French style”) is a stylized family-style service.
After the waitress we had asked to refill our water glasses came around, she took the time to ask us if we would like our empty dishes cleared without our having to prompt her, which we felt was very professional.
The meal had more ups than downs. I’m glad we had the opportunity to eat here, but on my return to Sushi Bar Rechavia I will be very picky about what I order. I like trying different things on the menu, but once bitten, twice shy.
For those of you who have heard me say that I never criticize food I don’t pay for, it still holds true; we were six shekels over our gift certificate. Again a very special thank you to our dear friends for giving my wife and I a quiet, enjoyable evening out.