Dining out / A Comedy of Errors
My visit to the recently opened restaurant on the 11th floor of the new Crowne Plaza hotel did not start propitiously. After entering the lobby I managed to find the elevators, but once there had to stand for several minutes trying to decode the system because instead of the usual "up" and "down" buttons, what was mounted on the wall was a keyboard with numbers and symbols that reminded me more of the control panel of a space capsule than an earth-bound elevator. No matter what combination of buttons I pushed, no elevator doors opened to beckon me to enter. To my relief, a hotel guest appeared and showed me how to get into the elevator without setting off any alarms.
The first thing to reach my table, and another not overly-good omen, was a complimentary mini-cocktail, that of apple and passion fruit juice with a touch of vodka. Whatever miniscule amount of vodka might have been in the drink went completely unnoticed and the fruit juice was so dilute that it reminded me of nothing more than those kinds of soft drinks that comes in a plastic container, the fruits unidentifiable. That was followed by an amuse geule of a small ball of finely chopped chicken meat, that making me smile because it reminded me of the matzo balls that we find floating in our Passover chicken soup. Not even the bit of teriyaki sauce that had been dabbed on the chicken ball could add any saving grace.
After ordering, I was presented with a freshly baked and steaming hot foccaccia. The pesto and harissa sauces and a bit of olive oil with balsamic vinegar served with the bread were pleasant but went largely untouched because the bread itself had been over-baked, was nearly burned on the bottom and was far too dry to be enjoyed.
My formal first course was of a sweetbread salad. The salad, served in a large bowl, was indeed topped with slices of sweetbreads, alas, like the bread that had come before, overcooked and thus far too firm and chewy. That was only the start of my problems with this dish, however, for the bowl had been filled with so many ingredients that I could not help but wonder if someone in the kitchen had been carried away by their enthusiasm.
By rummaging through carefully I managed to identify red grapefruit sections, romaine lettuce, baby leaves, arugula leaves, pine nuts, shredded red, yellow and green peppers, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, green beans and even candied walnuts. Why some hotel chefs insist on exaggerating in this way has always eluded me. What eluded me even further was precisely why a small bowl of soya sauce had been placed alongside the salad which had already been tossed with a generous amount of vinaigrette sauce.
My main course was of a 300 gram entrecote steak. As is my usual wont, I asked for the steak to be cooked medium-rare. As seemed to be the wont of the chef, however, the steak came somewhat overdone. I did not mind that as much as that the steak, despite being aged, was far too salty. I also minded that the potato puree that I had was dry and the sauce accompanying my steak was little more than a dilute stock flavored somewhat skimpily with porcini mushrooms and was flavorless. To add insult to injury, the sauce had been served cold.
Dessert was of a hot chocolate cake, one with an almost souffle-like appearance, that actually was rich and pleasant. The raspberry sorbet that was served alongside the cake was of a too-commercial variety and the small dish of berries that also accompanied it was of the kind that come from freezer bags and thus lacking solidity or distinct flavor and that was also why they were somewhat "mushy" in texture. Nor did I ever manage to understand why my espresso coffee made its way to the table a full ten minutes before my dessert.
The service was willing and responsive although naive enough that silver was set sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right and with no one being able to describe the ingredients of the various dishes.
My food bill for one came to NIS 215 to which two glasses of wine, a Segal Chardonnay and a Gamla Merlot, added NIS 63. I will return only if I hear that things have improved dramatically for the better.
The 11th Floor: Crown Plaza City Center Hotel, Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv. Tel: 03 7774067. Kosher