As with Sima, I'd heard about Lilith, a French influenced restaurant in Tel Aviv, on Daniel Rogov's food forum and had read with interest his review. He clearly enjoys the place and regularly refers to it as an excellent restaurant that happens to be kosher.
I appreciate some might be a bit perplexed at this. It is fair to assume that in Israel, given the sheer quantity of kosher restaurants, many must be excellent. Sadly making such an assumption is incorrect. There are many good kosher restaurants in the bottom and mid-range but the country's cup does not overflow at the top. I'm not sure why, other than Tel Aviv is at the forefront of the country's dining scene where it's easier to find something porcine than it is to find a kosher restaurant. I am absuing only a modicum of poetic license.
Which is why I was excited at the prospect of eating at Lilith, I want more than anything to find a really good restaurant that just happens to be kosher. Unfortunately, my expectations were not met.
The room is lovely (once you walk through the office block to reach it) the service was impeccable. But the food was generally a real let down.
It started well enough with some deliciously smooth babaganoush and a stunning fruity olive oil. But those high notes were short lived.
I started with the chicken's livers. I was intrigued to see what a supposedly very good kosher restaurant would do with an ingredient at the (stereotypical) heart of Jewish cooking.
It was quite amazing. They managed to both overcook and undercook it. The overcooked lobes were chalky, the undercooked ones were slimy and made me feel rather queasy. The toast the livers were sitting on was burnt. The accompanying caramelised banana was quite a pleasant touch, but not sufficiently so to rescue the dish.
For main course I could not ignore the special of duck confit. I cannot remember ever having eaten it and assuming the starter was an aberration I figured this was going to be special. I've heard so many people wax lyrical about this gallic speciality and have read recipes avidly. I find it hard to believe it's meant to be as uttlery tasteless as the version I tried.
In addition to the confited leg, other bits duck were on the plate, including a lobe of something doing a poor impression of foie gras. The meat sat on top of two asaparagus spears that were beaten into submission by overly sweet purees of various fruits and pumpkin. The asparagus vs sauce concept underscored some wide-of-the-mark thinking in the kitchen.
Mrs S had pasta. It wasn't bad, it was as I recall perfectly fine. But it was vegetarian, the ingredients were good. I don't really have a lot else to add.
Dessert of sorbets was similarly dull. Which is a bit of a disgrace, along the lines of the chicken liver massacre, because with the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy, desserts are the hardest course for kosher meat restaurants. Sorbets should be their ideal dessert, it should be simple for them to take some beautiful fruit, make a syrup, combine, churn and freeze. Instead we received some mildly flavoured crushed ice.
And I'm gutted, because I wanted to enjoy this meal and revel in its deliciousness. Yes the room is beautiful, the service was good and the clientele were glamorous. But none of that makes up for disappointing food.Google Maps
Lilith, 4 Weizman, Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel: +972 (03) 6091331
What others think
Daniel Rogov - All of which gives no cause whatsoever for complaint
as Lilith remains the very best kosher restaurant in the country and
certainly of interest to sophisticated diners even when kashrut is not
important. (UPDATE I've amended this reference and link following RotemAR's comment below.)
Frommer's - Lilith combines quality ingredients with a kitchen that's always interesting but not overblown with forced inventiveness.