There are several places that makes me nostalgic and Messa is one of these places. I celebrated my 20th birthday in Messa, eating Foie Gras maybe for the first time.
Messa kept its status as one of the fine restaurants in the city and for a reason. Aviv Moshe, the chef, has a modern approach to his menu that changes seasonally but keeps its well loved classics like the Foie Gras with white chocolate which is still the same dish since seven years ago.
This time we went four friends to have dinner. The place hasn’t changed one bit: high stools, white curtains all around, The long middle bar which stretches all across the restaurant. The menu was handed over together with the wine list. There were a lot of decisions to make. My friends started the night with cocktails, served in a branded “Messa” glass. The Passion fruit martini was shaken and poured in front of us. I was in doubts about which wine to get and so our waiter called the sommelier for consultation. He recommended a Durvillea Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc 2010, New Zealand. At first this wine was underwhelming and flat, but as the meal advanced and we let it sit and open it got a lot better, round and full.
When it was time to order the food we noticed our waiter was inexperienced. Telling us about the specials was a long and agonizing process but we made it to the end and even threw in some questions about the written menu as well. Many of Messa’s dishes have two portion sizes to choose from which is great in my opinion.
The dishes started to fill our table. It wasn’t long before there was no room for our individual plates. The courses were served too fast and even though we wanted to enjoy a slow and relaxing dinner it required a bit juggling between plates, which were big and heavy to begin with.
The meal started with a small Amuse Bouch of Split pea cream soup. It was cute. The bread, complimentary, came with three different condiments. Proceeding to the first courses. Crab gnocchi with Blue Bavaria cheese, crab bisque and quail yolk (66 NIS). Interesting combination of bisque and gnocchi, some crunch came from deep fried sage and croutons. Crab meat wasn’t there I believe (or I missed it), but it was tasty, a bit too salty. Seared red tuna on a skewer, spicy papaya salad with peanuts and ginger vinaigrette (68 NIS). Arrived over a bed of mushrooms which were very flavorful but didn’t really match the rest of the dish. The vinaigrette most impressed me and the salad wasn’t bad. Continuing with one of the daily specials: Chicken liver Pâté ball covered in mandarin jelly. Of course the description was much longer but I can’t recall any of it. It was a bit disappointing: came with a crunchy caramel cracker, coulis of strawberry maybe and over a bed of crumbs which were chocolaty in flavor. It lacked balance: sweet, sweet, sweet and some more sweet that covers this liver ball. It can be considered as a dessert in my opinion and I could only manage to taste a small bite, but Yair claimed he liked it.
Later we had Mini beef fillet hamburgers with roasted onions (62 NIS), those were two small burgers in little brioche buns. I’m not sure why Omer insisted on ordering it but it wasn’t anything extraordinary, the onions could have been sliced thinner to get a milder taste and it could generally have some sort of a twist. Spring artichoke with Blue Bavaria fondue, homemade pasta and tomatoes (58 NIS) which had a great sauce and fresh pasta, but couldn’t understand what walnuts were doing there. Veal cheek, root vegetables cream and crispy gnocchi with sweet spices broth (128 NIS) was a wintry dish with cream root vegetables and cooked vegetables as well, thick sauce, slow cooked meat. A truly comforting dish and as if to cover all bases in the comforting department, Chef Aviv Moshe through in some crispy gnocchi to seal the deal. Sea bass served with shallot ravioli and porcini foam (74 NIS for the small portion) is a dish with plenty of potential and was probably done a thousand times but this time had a proportions problem – too much sauce and a puddle of oil at the bottom. The fish is tender and great, the vegetables are of good quality, the sauce is well prepared but finally putting the dish together wasn’t well thought and it ruined it a bit and left me with a heartburn. Beurre noisette gnocchi, chestnut and porcini foam (94 NIS) was a dish composed of element we tasted in the veal dish (gnocchi) and in the fish dish (porcini foam). Adding some chestnuts and this is the vegetarian dish. So we had three dishes with gnocchi. I think the crab bisque dish was of better value than this one.
Desserts menu is longer than expected with eleven options. I was already exploded but there’s always room for dessert. Wild berries dessert (62 NIS) is a layered dessert served inside a clear tall glass. There’s strawberry sorbet, meringue, pastry cream, fresh strawberries, strawberry marmalade and strawberry macaroons. The sorbet was delicious and so was everything else. Chocolate delight (45 NIS) is the famous Valrhona dessert which is dense two color chocolate bar with chocolate and caramel sauce. It seem like this dessert is the matching finish for the meal if you start with the Valrhona chocolate covered Foie Gras. We also got another dessert on the house: Espresso cream with caramelized almonds and delicate cheese pastry (42 NIS) which I thought was fun and a lovely finish.
To tell the truth, Messa is a good restaurant. I wasn’t happy with some of the small details which sometimes can improve greatly the dish and the overall experience. I don’t think there was a decrease in the level of the cooking (similar to what I think happened in Herbert Samual for example), but the case is that we have developed a better pallet. And by we I mean me. And now it takes more than just putting some Foie Gras covered in chocolate in front of me to make Oooohh and Aaaahhhh sounds. Still you get a good value for the money here, one of the top restaurants we have.
19. Ha’arbaa st. Tel-Aviv