If you’re looking for a fine-dining experience on the cheap, go to Catit (for lunch). Order the business meal (135 nis for one appetizer and one entreé) if starvation is setting in, but if not, (and there are at least two of you) order three appetizers and dessert (you can get two appetizers for 119 nis, and one appetizer and one dessert for the same price).
Catit is a glimmer of class and elegance in a country that is otherwise lacking both. While the feel of the restaurant is very old school (it used to be the first hotel in Tel Aviv, established over 100 years ago), they modernize their dishes by throwing pseudo-molecular gastronomy at you from all angles. Foams, jellies, dusts, and the like, added a lot to the appetizers, however they complicated the entreés.
My mom was my dining companion, and after we extracted the long hairs (yes, hairS, plural) from our tablecloth, we settled into the lovely dining room. There wasn’t an empty seat to be had, but the noise level was low, and we could really enjoy ourselves. We each ordered the business lunch, and split everything.
First, a savory yogurt parfait arrived at our table (note: we didn’t order this). It was TART. I couldn’t get used to the flavor (but my spoon still hit the bottom, so interpret freely). Despite it containing about eight ingredients (smoked green wheat, celery, parsley and red onion, warm yogurt coriander seeds, a drop of olive oil and a dash of sumac), you could only taste about three (in bold).
Next came the appetizers (that we actually ordered), and there was only one way to describe them: beautiful.
We picked a winner in the Onglet Tartar, which was sandwiched between bread tuile (dainty crackers, almost too delicate), and was surrounded by dots and dashes of parmesan pearls, capers, anchovies, egg yolk crumbs, shallots, yuzu aioli, radishes, mustard leaves, and green beans. It sounds like a mess (I know), but it was a delicious mess. The beef was so light and lean, it was almost like eating fish, and while the other things around the plate were mostly extras, the yuzu aioli really brought it up a notch.
The Sea Fish Sashimi was full of surprises. The fish (tuna, though not always) was inexplicably black at first glance (a coating of nori seaweed dust was the culprit!), and it came swimming in a dish of yogurt foam, chili, herb vinaigrette, horseradish granita, honey and horseradish jelly, cucumber, tapioca pearls, and more (of the amazing) yuzu aioli. It was fresh, it was light, and it had layers upon layers of flavor.
After we nearly ate the plates that the first course was served on, another unanticipated treat arrived: a palette cleanser. Olive oil topped with candied citrus peels, topped with sorbet (flavored with yogurt, citrus, honey, and yuzu), topped with a tarragon leaf, and sprinkled with black licorice. If you love grapefruit, you will love this. The tang clung on to my taste buds a bit too long, but my palette was cleansed (mission accomplished).
Now that our mouths were free of distracting flavors, we moved on to the main courses. Here was where we got a bit lost.
The Grilled Veal Cut looked flawless on the plate, and then (with great difficulty) we cut into it. It tasted alright, but it was chewy. The red quinoa on the side seemed as if it was cooked in barbecue sauce. However, redemption came in the “mushrooms.” A carrot flake “cap” was stuck to a “stem” of squash with (what tasted like) vanilla pudding. We wished there were more than three. Carrot flakes are the new potato chips.
Before anything, I will tell you that my mom liked the fish. However, the Bar Baked in Shiitake Mushroom Consommé didn’t do it for me. The consommé was served almost like a fruit roll up (I would have preferred a fruit roll up), and the combination of sauce and fifty thousand types of mushrooms, plus fish, plus plus plus; it was just too much.
Luckily, we finished off the meal with an amazing dessert: Lemon and Yuzu Tart (65 nis if purchased a la carte). The tart was luscious. A word to the wise- steer clear of all olive products involved in the making of this dessert: olive oil dust (tastes like dry paint), and candied tassos olives (I hope that doesn’t need explanation). Instead, stick to the sweeter aspects, and especially indulge in the licorice ice cream scoop on top!
Heichal HaTalmud 4, Tel Aviv
(make reservations, business menu served until 3pm)