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- Restaurant Reviews (8)
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I arrived at the “Salon” while on a work assignment from the “Washington Post”. Did I mention that was my first international assignment?! Full of motivation and hunger I arrived at the restaurant with Oded, my husband, without knowing what we were getting ourselves into. Yet as soon as the door opened, a large smile landed on both of our faces. This was not just another swanky, quiet place with Norah Jones buzzing in the background, but a live, loud, crowded, one man cooking show.
Once I went with Oded to a famous chef’s restaurant, and when we left the place Oded mentioned that there’s nothing like the Sabih (eggplant, tahini, and hardboiled egg in a pita-type of Israeli fast food). I was obviously upset by the fact that my husband could not appreciate creative, quality dining. I had told myself then that was the last time he’d come with me to that type of restaurant and at that moment also realized that I was in the market for a new food buddy. Now I realized that Oded and Eyal Shani actually think alike- there is nothing like Sabih or more like there is nothing like a 100 shekel (27 $US) pita sandwich!
The Salon is an exclusive restaurant only by a price based factor, because everything but the price is rugged, sensual, dirty and street-food inspired. The entire night we felt like it was shame that I was documenting the experience only by still frame; a video camera would have conveyed the experience – people singing at the top of their lungs, breaking plates and pounding on the table while Shani pounds the Carpaccio on the table-in a more meaningful way.
I know that most people in Israel think that Shani is a conceited weariless foodie, and personally I do not connect with his culinary philosophy, but I must say that he loves food, and respects its raw materials- and for me that’s a recipe for success. Last night, we sat on the bar and watched Shani tirelessly cook, cutting tomatoes, seasoning, laying out fish carpaccio, drizzling tomato sauce; all done with total concentration and the upmost seriousness. It was a spectacular, real-life, sensual, cooking show.
Once we sat down, we were served warm foccacia bread with a soft white cheese topped with tomato seeds and chili pepper- Shani’s favorite products. We opened a bottle of wine, and began to enjoy the experience. I love good bread at a restaurant, it gives you rose colored glasses for the rest of the meal. After a few minutes we were served the first course of grouper in a spicy tomato sauce (see the pattern?) which was delicious, and once the fish was gone, we were left with a great dipping sauce for our foccacia.
The two main courses that we ate arrived without plates. The first arrived on a gold colored cardboard and was called: (I took the menu home otherwise I would never have remembered) “Lesson for Tunisians: wide open potato, its flaming flesh dizzy with Aioli and crème fraiche, and olive oil preserved tuna resting inside. Hardboiled egg, eggplant, chili pepper and fresh tomatoes”. What a dish! So many flavors and so unpretentious. It was the complete opposite of pompous- everything was dripping, coming apart and falling straight onto our table. We literally licked our fingers. The next main course had the shortest name on the menu: “Lamb ragu in a pita”. We had to try one of the pita dishes, even if it was 30$ US!!! The dish arrived inside of a brown paper bag and inside we found a warm a la minute pita (we were sitting next to the oven) filled with lusciously tasty meat, literally inspired by a falafel stand, but price inspired by Catit (one of Israel’s most luxurious restaurants). It was a good dish, packed with really good meat, tehini and chili. It was a bit heavy for us and so we decided to close shop on the main courses.
The fact that I was there as a photographer for the Washington Post didn’t make an impression on Shani, who didn’t shower us with on the house goodies- maybe because Hugh Jackman was sitting next to us? And I am no competition for Hugh. At the end of the meal we received from our host a sampling of all of the desserts which included decadent chocolate mousse, scrumptious scones served with strawberry jam and sour cream, a pleasant (but nothing more) chocolate cake and a dried out banana cake. We ate about a quarter of what was given to us and then we said “cut”- inspired by our actor friend sitting next to us.
We finished the evening with many photos, a bit tipsy from the wine, happy and content. It’s been awhile since I had such a pleasurable restaurant experience!
To sum up- the restaurant is suitable first and foremost for those who are ready to spend a lot of money on food; it’s expensive, very expensive. It should also be taken into account that this is not the place for intimate conversations- this is a crowded, noisy place. On the other hand, there is so much energy in the air here, that I think it’s a great place to come with a significant other or another couple, to drink a lot, move with the music, and leave with the desire to continue to night elsewhere…Danya.
Here is a link to the Washington Post article I was on assignment for: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/01/AR2010040103382.html
30 comments to “Restaurant Review: The Salon-Eyal Shani”
This experience sounds (or rather, reads) so fantastic! I would love to visit a place like this. It seems wonderful.
Thanks again for sharing your blog with me!
Deanna: Thanks so much Alejandra- if you visit Israel, we’ll take you there!
So, he knows food, does he? Pity he never learned to eat with finesse. Anyone who has seen him on TV eating will be put off his restaurants for life
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Hi. That’s such a wonderful review. I totally wanna eat at this place when I’m in Tel Aviv in April. I’m wondering how I can make a reservation for a table? I don’t find any existent phone number or email. Would be great if you could help out. Angela
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