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    Friday, February 24, 2017

Sweet Dallal

For two months, the princess had eaten nothing sweet, after the palace doctor forbade it. At first, her strong motivation helped her to refuse pastries, cakes and goodies –  and surprised me. Then a few weeks later, I noticed strange behaviour – the princess began sniffing instead of eating. She sniffed the aroma of just-baked yeast cakes, hot chocolate cream, and trays of sugar & spice cookies. "OK, I thought, "if it gets her through the day…”. But gradually, as the days progressed on, her unconvincing smiles as she sniffed the goodies were replaced by a heartbreaking expression, desperate, and yearning (and once I even saw a tear!).   Like every fairy-tale where the princess is in trouble, in our case too messengers were sent to all parts of the kingdom (not that Tel Aviv is so huge) to find cookies that the palace doctor would permit, and make the princess smile again. But unlike every fairy-tale –  no solution was found. I tried to cheer her up with starters and main courses, crammed with ingredients, perfectly prepared, and with an assortment of flavours. I stopped at nothing - I seared fish, stuffed pheasants, rolled out dough…even rented a pig to look for truffles. And the princess? Well, she tasted it all, but still longed for dessert.   Then one evening, as we left the home of friends in Nveh Tzedek, I noticed her pensive expression. She looked at me with a serious, focused gaze, and ordered "Follow me!” Obediently, I followed  her through the narrow alleyways, until she stopped in front of a bakery. We entered. Marvelling, the princess looked around, then went from one showcase to another, closely observing the cakes and pastries loaded with cream and decorated with strawberries. The man behind the counter told us we had entered the kingdom of Dallal, the pastry-shop, and that further along the road was the restaurant of the same name. That very day they had launched a new dessert menu, and its high point is a tasting menu - composed totally of desserts. Fate had led us there, claimed the princess, not her sense of smell, and nobody argues with Fate...   In a wink we were seated at the bar of the Dallal restaurant. It's an attractive space, designed with tremendous attention to every detail - from the seats, to the packets of sugar, the coffee and tea. The new dessert menu stars ten (!) different desserts, all tempting and most of them surprising. Alongside the new dessert menu, Dallal has launched a richly varied list of dessert wines, with a choice of 11 dessert wines – something quite exceptional in the Israeli restaurant milieu. We chose the tasting menu that offers three dessert wines served with the desserts, at NIS 180. The tasting menu, without wine, is available for NIS 120.   The first dessert we tackled was a rosewater panna cotta, adorned with pistachios and hibiscus syrup, cherries, lychee jelly, and a salad of apples, celery, and rocket – presented with a Sauternes Chateau Monteil, 2005. The panna cotta was delicate and delicious, and matched the cherries to perfection. The lychee jelly was refreshing, but most surprising of all was a the celery salad which at first sounded unnecessary, but revealed itself as an unexpectedly perfect addition. With its gentle bouquet and powerful taste, the wine was a flawless match for the dessert. The next dessert was strawberries with a crispy meringue, vanilla cream, wild berry compote, basil leaves and balsamic ice cream. It was served with an Otima port wine, aged for ten years (Warre, Portugal); ruby red and sweet, it has a powerful bouquet that complemented the beautiful dessert we were served - a line of meringue balls, topped with a drop of vanilla cream, then crowned with a strawberry. The wild berry compote was tart and tasty, and the basil  leaves added a refreshing, distinctive taste. We both agreed that the word ‘compote’ doesn’t do it justice. It has nothing at all in common with the fruit dessert that your grandmother forced you to eat. Without peeping at the menu, we couldn't identify the ice-cream’s distinctive, subtle taste - that hinted at dulce de leche ice cream. The meringue balls melted in our mouths, together with the splendid cream and strawberry, and each bite was a delight.   So far we had tried subtly flavoured desserts – but now Dallal brought out the heavy artillery. It was a chocolate dessert that’s in fact three separate desserts: a bitter chocolate sorbet on one side of the plate, a mound of praline mousse, and vanilla crème brulée on the other side. Drawing them all together is a winding stream of velvety chocolate mousse. And to avoid any lack of chocolate – we also received a little jug of hot chocolate ganache. I was dumbstruck by the size of the portion, but the princess was already hard at work – tasting, pouring on a little ganache, and mainly just busy being happy. The clever choice of  water-based sorbet went well with the dark chocolate, did not dilute its taste, and granted the dessert an airiness that’s unusual in chocolate desserts containing cream or milk. The chocolate mousse had just the right texture, but the jewel in the crown was definitely the mound of praline, with crème brulée in the centre. If you juxtapose a rich praline mousse with a delicate crème brulée, there’s always a risk that the mousse will take control with its strong taste. But when it’s so accurately planned and presented, the crème brulée infuses delicately with the chocolate – and every mouthful is pure delight.   The final dessert wine that we sipped was a Spanish wine, Don Guido Pedro Jimenez (Williams & Humbert). This is a quite heavy and syrupy 20-year sherry, that we found delicious. To my mind (though I was totally unimportant during the evening), the final dish on the tasting menu was the very best of all - hot quinces. A bowl of quinces, in a reduced spicy wine sauce, with a creamy sweet risotto, and a cigar filled with almonds and dates. The hot and thick wine sauce softened the risotto, while the cigar... oh the cigar... it was so delicious, that even if it was served alone, I’d have crowned it Best Dessert of the evening. It had just the right thickness and crispiness, and the result was simply heavenly: there's no other word. I have no idea what other ingredients it had apart from almonds and dates but the result was far more delicious than you imagine when you list its ingredients. Hot, sweet and comforting -  the ideal winter dessert.   By now (actually, by the second teaspoon of chocolate) I was bending under the load of sugar, but the princess, in ecstasy over the dessert menu, wanted "Just one more, then that's it". After a serious debate, we chose the Smoked Pineapple dessert (NIS 55) – two skewers of pineapple, straight from the grill, dipped in a rum, caramel and cream sauce (with sweet cream in a separate jug, that you pour onto the caramel), a scoop of grog ice-cream, plus buttery brioche croutons. Grog is the traditional tipple of sailors – diluted rum or beer, plus spices. With its smoky aroma, this dessert is a very unusual and totally delicious way of serving pineapple. The smoking process gives the pineapple presence, that merges with the caramel, rum, and brioche croutons and is balanced by the tartness of the yoghurt and the alcohol in the grog ice cream. It’s another splendid idea for winter desserts, and represents the intriguing, unusual desserts on the menu – available at Dallal until mid-March.   An entire meal of desserts is a real experience, and attesting to this is the princess’s smile. Even though she hasn’t gone back to eating sweet things since that evening (she feels bad about the doctor) ... the smile still hasn’t left her face.  

 

Dallal  

057-9439499

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