Taizu, Because We’re Fancy Folks
That’s always been a running joke with my fiancé and I, that we were fancy because we had extraordinary luxuries like drinking water and cutting boards that weren’t made of broken glass. So when a non-foodie friend of ours spent 20 minutes raving about his phenomenal experience at Tel Aviv’s Taizu, we felt somewhat inclined to swing by. But when? The four shekel signs on Google slightly deterred us, but the restaurant’s nice business lunch combined with Wenji’s Passover break made for a serendipitous date.
I arrived early, even with some dilly dallying, and finding a place to sit with a slightly burnt tasting coffee curtesy of literally every barista in this city was proving difficult, so I watched office workers passing through the lobby of the high-rise that Taizu calls home. It’s spring, so the CEOs have switched from Blundstone boots to Havaianas flip-flops.
Our reservation time rolled around, and I was met with an unusual sight in Tel Aviv: a western-style restaurant that completed more than 80 percent of the requirements. Nothing was half-assed: the furniture matched, the servers anticipated the customers’ every need, and golly gee did the food look pretty. I was welcomed warmly despite my Tel Aviv chic appearance and found an amuse bouche placed in front of me. So far so good.
The amuse in question was a cute salad made of ginger-marinated kohlrabi (my favorite vegetable), black sesame, and fresh chili. And it was exactly what I wanted to start my meal: a flavor bomb that kept me wanting more. Wenji finally showed up (10 minutes late, inexcusable for a German!) and we chatted while looking at the menu. Taizu boasts an Asian fusion model, which usually is code for East Asian, but in fact the whole continent was fairly well-represented except for perhaps FSU countries. Shame. I wouldn’t have said no to a teriyaki plov.
We decided on a few menu items and got increasingly excited as we saw the dishes making their way to the tables around us. Everything looked stunning, precise, and shiny under the minimalist chandeliers hanging on to the dining room’s high ceilings. Our first courses arrived a perfect 7 minutes later, and so we were ready to dig in. Except this wasn’t the sort of food you just dig into, so much as admire from every angle, detect the many odors emanating from the plate, respect the knife work, then maybe, maybe, start tasting a sauce. But yeah. We were hungry. The ceviche was nice, the fish a top quality sea bass surrounded by a lightly chilled Thai curry sauce. But the Shanghai dumplings were some of the best I’ve had in years. A house-made wrapper cleverly packaged braised veal cheeks in a pomegranate sauce in a perfect Israeli touch. It was a shear joy to eat, though I felt a little silly sucking broth out of the corner of a dumpling in such a fancy restaurant. The whole thing reminded me a little of Georgian khinkali.
Our plates were cleared and new ones appeared just moments later. I was slightly less impressed with the quality of the plating, but the food looked as good as any self-respecting curry, beef skewer, and nems I’d ever encountered. Still, the dishes were absolutely mouthwatering to eat, especially that butter chicken. And I’m not much of a curry person, but I couldn’t stop eating it. It took a lot out of me to leave a whole half of the dish to the man I was about to marry!
The beef skewer, though the least creative of all the dishes, was executed to perfection. The filet mignon was of top Argentinian quality, the accompanying roasted vegetables and sauce an absolute delight. And of course the nems were gorgeous, light and crispy and generously garnished with my favorite, Thai basil. The fish sauce was a pleasant surprise, the liquid didn’t have the usual funk that you often find in Vietnamese dips and instead tasted of lighter umami touch. Absolutely gorgeous.
We spent more time than strictly necessary to decide on whether or not to get dessert. After all, we’d spent quite some time at the restaurant and had painted a pretty clear picture of what it had to offer. Plus it was Passover. so cake and cookies would be off the menu straight away. Still, it was worth looking at the menu. Naturally, everything sounded amazing, especially the Black Forest, and it was gluten-free! Now I’m not one for molecular gastronomy, but that dessert was the best I’ve had in Israel so far, yes, including knafeh. A cherry mousse chilled cylinder hung out in a nitrogen cooled coconut nest with chocolate crumble and matcha powder, the whole thing lined with warm toffee sauce. Highly inauthentic but move over German bakers, this new take on a classic is here to stay!