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    Saturday, July 22, 2017

Seatara – the Winner

  We met years ago in one of Tel Aviv’s busiest kitchens. That night, we fell in love while tidying a huge refrigerator room. His obsessiveness matched my extremism, and two hours later at a temperature of 4°C, a wonderful friendship got underway. Since then, countless dishes have been served in that restaurant, neither of us work there any more, and we’ve both taken different directions. Since I left the city, we meet less, but every time we do, spend hours over a good meal, or whatever great entertainment is available. A few days ago we got together over a fabulous meal and - may God preserve us - what a time we had. We met at Sitara, a restaurant located in Sea & Sun, the upscale residential complex. It was the stormiest day of the year, and en route we encountered interminable traffic jams and drops of rain the size of tennis balls.   We walked into a beautiful space, with its glowing chandeliers, and took a table by the window, watching the lightning flashes illuminating the threatening sky. Inside, the mood was relaxed. Totally relaxed. George Harrison was singing with his weeping guitar, and we smiled at the sight of a very promising menu. To see whether its promise came through, we opened with the evening’s special – Fish and Seafood (NIS 128) and a Caprese salad (NIS 49). Both arrived within minutes. The Caprese salad starred a perfect, generous ball of buffalo mozzarella, with basil vinaigrette, moist tomatoes, lavishly sprinkled pine-nuts, and diced Kalamata olives -  beautifully presented. The cheese ball was perched on crispy crostini, and pesto sauce decorated it all. The Caprese salad was a winner. The fish special was served on a long serving dish - skewers of cod in tempura (a fresh take on fish & chips), served with a pickled lemon aioli, seared fillet of grouper alla plancha with a Sicilian sauce (tomatoes, olives & capers), and crispy jumbo shrimps in a hot Thai sauce with lemon and garlic butter. Even a dry description of the dish makes any normal person’s mouth water. The shrimps were crunchy, the plancha worked its magic with the grouper, and the local fish and chips was an accolade to the English dish which is not always so delightful. And as for the pickled lemon aioli – you should give it a try at home.   Before moving on, we decided to play the game of “they simply have no idea”; it has simple rules - you sit in a restaurant and take turns making a list of flaws. Flaws can include too-loud music, peeling tiles, chipped china, poor service, tasteless food, appalling design, creaking chairs etc. Usually the game begins when the starters arrive, and continues long after the meal is over. But this time we couldn't find a thing. Darn. Even the remains of the shrimps looked attractive on the plate, and the vibrant colours of what remained of the Caprese Salad would look good in an art museum. In other words, Sitara isn’t a good place to play the game. And then we went on to another special…   This time, it was a meat tapas assortment (NIS 148).  Little miracles that arrived on an oval plate - beef fillet on sweet potato, a mini-hamburger with goose breast, chicken liver pâté with baharat, onion and date syrup confit, and home-made chorizos on a salad of chickpeas and grilled peppers. Though this may sound weird, the sweetish beef fillet atop the sweet potato sent smiles to my face and sweetness through my veins. As for the hamburger, the only downside was that that it was indeed mini, too small for two people who each took a single bite and immediately longed for more. Served sliced, the sausages were outstanding, though the chickpea salad didn't knock us off our feet. I could say ‘anaemic’ but maybe it was only anaemic in comparison to the other powerful flavours that burst out of the plate. So let’s say - relatively anaemic. The pâté was a total success; velvety, fresh, and with a hint of sweetness.   After that, we took a short break, and tried (unsuccessfully) to find flaws in the waitress’s smile, or the interior design. No luck. By now we were Sitara groupies. Then we continued exploring the menu. I ordered Purple Calamari Alla Plancha (NIS 67), while Kfir went for Sea Bream Involtini (NIS 56), both of which originated in the best part of the Mediterranean. The seared calamari reminded me of the Barcelona market, where they serve cuttlefish with a poached egg, purple onions, sun-dried tomatoes, beans, sumac and olive oil. More smiles. Sadly, Kfir doesn't eat non-kosher food so he didn't try this marvel, but he adored the sea bream - stuffed with chickpeas, parsley, mint and coriander leaves, and lemon zest and all this in a Sicilian tomato sauce with tiny fennel chips. Kfir was disappointed that there was no Shabbat challah for dipping with the sauce, and I think he was right. The flavours were perfectly balanced, and the texture was velvety.   At this point I left for the washroom, returning without news. Can you complain about snowy starched towels alongside the luxurious taps? Well, never mind. So we proceeded to the last station - two awesome dishes: Sweet Surprises (NIS 60) and Bitter Chocolate Mousse with a Milk Chocolate, Nut and Nougat Bar (NIS 42). The wait-staff had to tell us what these delights were made of, because - despite the generous helping - in seconds just a trace of chocolate remained. So I really can't describe them, but I can tell you that among others there were tiny portions of crème brulée, pistachio macaroon and kadaif, fruit petits fours, and toffee whiskey mousse. Oh, and also a variety of chocolate threads decorating the plate.   To sum up: a celebration for the eyes and taste buds. Walking out into the rainy street was the only depressing moment of the evening. Kfir drove me back to the train, with a full stomach and cheerful heart.  “This time it was a 0-0 draw”, I said. Kfir thought a few seconds, then blurted out "Let's just say that Sitara won, and that's it". And as usual, he was right.  

 

Seatara   057-9443447

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