Omer surprised me and took me to The Salon (Ha’Salon). I didn’t know anything about this place other than it’s Eyal Shani’s and it’s open only twice a week. Turns out that this place really made a buzz, a very unique kind of buzz.
Shani has several restaurants already in Tel-Aviv and had appeared in several cooking TV shows. He has his own followers crowed, a niche. My impression is that his philosophy to food is cooking simple dishes using the best materials and products that speak for themselves and he’s a big talker when it comes to food. A full of himself food bullshiter in other words. But we can forgive him for that if he makes great food.
It was certainly a different experience than the usual night out in a restaurant but was it in a good manner?
I want to write a few words about the ambiance and service we got but as it was more of a changing process I’ll write about it a bit later.
The wine list had two parts – Israeli and French Bourgogne. Why only Bourgogne? I asked the cook in front of us and he explained that the Bourgogne Pinot Noir matches perfectly to the food. Pinot Noir isn’t my top choice, this is why I chose to get an Israeli glass of red and a French glass of white.
Few words about looking at the team working in the open kitchen: it it was too slow. I guess for someone else it could have seem normal but it was very far from a normal kitchen. These guys were playing with the food, “petting” their ingredients… In one sense it could look like they’re really putting some love into the food. In the other sense, it’s disgusting. They’re almost masturbating over their dishes. For me it was a weird show to watch. Against everything I learned about cooking in a professional kitchen. For me it was always: work fast, work clean, neat, efficiently, professionally. For them it was: work slow, be wasteful (using one part of the ingredient and throwing the rest to the garbage), plating differently each time… One of the cooks was thinking about how to put the slice of pepper on the plate for over 5 minutes. How odd is that? It’s not like they were doing anything complicated.
Anyway, as I was saying, each cook has the privilege of working however he feels right if the end result is great food. This is what I believe. So it was time to taste the food.
Another odd twist to this meal was that our waiter looked like a cherub: chubby, curly blond hair and big blue eyes. He also expressed himself in this angelic manner whenever he approached us with a dish: “this is heaven on a plate”, “this is just a magnificent creation” etc…
So here comes the food:
On to the main courses…
The verdict is rather complicated this time, you get mixed messages eating in this place: prestige, down to earth, a common-people tavern, only for the rich, sloppy presentation, serious business, unprofessional service. Anyway you look at it, I think it’s safe to say you don’t get the value for your money here (the bill came up to about 800 NIS for the two of us!). Better spend your money on a star Michelin restaurant in my opinion.
Strengths: quality materials, attention to the products, a lot of love (and time!) put into each dish, sitting in front of the cooks, cherub waiter.
Weaknesses: all the dishes are too plain, no sophistication, unbelievable pricing, what you read in the menu is what you get – only few elements in each plate, loud oriental music.
Who will enjoy it: Eyal Shani’s fans across the globe. Who will not: all the rest.
8 Ma’avar Yabok, Tel Aviv