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Taking Pleasure Seriously

ISRAEL : Café Noir – Not Just For The Schnitzel

When you think about the long time culinary institution in the Tel Aviv food scene – Café Noir, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a schnitzel.

That’s also the reason that as someone who really enjoys eating at restaurants, Café Noir was never the first place that popped up in my head whenever Daniel entrusted me with the responsibility to choose a restaurant for lunch.

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Of course there’s nothing wrong with schnitzels, but the fried dish is considered a banal lunch in almost every Israeli house, and even though I knew there was a good reason that this dish was considered the restaurant’s signature dish {and I ate there in the past and really enjoyed it}, Café Noir always came across my mind as a safe and a bit of a boring place.

Usually when you eat out, and I don’t mean the random Sabich {Israeli steet food dish}, but more in the direction of gourmet restaurants that are priced accordingly, there’s an expectation to receive something special, something you can’t make at home by yourself.

Even classic dishes, like eggplant with tahini {REALLY hot dish in Israel}, Caesar salad and beef carpaccio, which you can find at almost every restaurant and bistro usually disappoint me – not because the dishes aren’t good, but because a lot of restaurants tend to disregard them {and us, customers} and not serve their best version.

That’s exactly the reason why Café Noir was in the back of my mind, since even the most classic and known food has to be made the right way and there’s a good reason why Café Noir stayed strong in Tel Aviv’s dynamic restaurant field.

Café Noir’s secret is certainly in the freshness, the strictly chosen raw materials and the precise preparation of dishes that aren’t even considered extra special {and sometimes that’s the biggest challenge}.

Put together the quality of the food along with this bistro’s elegant Parisian atmosphere, and you’ll get a place that justifies its existence in the Tel Aviv scene all of these years.

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During our last visit to Tel Aviv we decided to visit the restaurant during lunch hours and check what they have to offer on their business menu.

Café Noir doesn’t provide a business menu that offers a “package deal” including a first course and a main course from the menu, but instead, they offer a 10-12% discount off the restaurant’s evening menu.

Honestly? I don’t love this deal, especially since this discount isn’t as noticeable as others offered at almost every restaurant in the city.

And yet, there’s no doubt that Café Noir’s business lunch menu doesn’t keep any customers away during lunch time.

When we got to the restaurant at around 2pm, the restaurant was completely packed and people were waiting near the host’s stand hoping to get a table without a reservation in advance.

We were happy we made reservations in advance and even happier that we got to the restaurant hungry since we assumed that we will be very pleased.

The host took us to our table shortly after we arrived, which was in the restaurant’s closed balcony.

The first thing we did was order a big San Pelegrino and a cocktail based on gin – Singapore Slizz {41 NIS} that was served in a big glass and was very fruity and refreshing.

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APPETIZERS

For the appetizers, we went with the waitress’s recommendation and ordered the Mediterranean Ceviche {44 NIS} from the regular menu, the tomatoes and nectarines salad with Mozzarella, prosciutto and basil oil {54 NIS} from the specials menu, and of course bread with butter {12 NIS} – because it’s a must 😉

We got the bread first along with excellent olives and great butter. If there’s something I really like, it’s when there’s attention to details, and not just with the food, but with the serving, too – look at the delicate cover for the butter!

{Am I the only one who doesn’t enjoy getting packaged butter at restaurants? A bit of a personal touch won’t hurt anyone!}.

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The ceviche came right after. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when we got the ceviche. The dish looked like a vegetable salad with tahini that you could find in any Arabic or grill restaurant and I felt like we didn’t make the best order.

But I was so wrong! The dish may have looked very banal – but the nice chunks of fresh fish that blended into the salad that was chopped into small pieces on tahini with hints of chili – turned into an interesting celebration of flavors!

I was a bit worried that the tahini will be too dominant and would overpower the dish, but it wasn’t at all – the fish managed to stay the highlight of the dish.

I thought the dish was excellent, priced fairly and logically {look how much fish there was!} and added an interesting twist to a classic menu.

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The salad was beautiful – a mix of colorful tomatoes, slices of nectarines with a basil oil sauce, pieces of mozzarella and on top of everything, thin slices of prosciutto aged in the restaurant.

The salad was simply wonderful! Imagine a super high-quality and upgraded Caprese salad. The combination of the flavors was outstanding. Highly recommended.

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MAIN COURSE

For the main course Daniel ordered the famous veal schnitzel {72 NIS} and I ordered fettuccine with beef fillet and a peppery sauce with wild mushrooms and spinach {89 NIS} from the specials menu.

The schnitzel, which was very thin and crispy, obviously met all of our expectations. Not only did it meet our expectations, but it wasn’t banal at all… after all, how many people eat veal schnitzels at home, right?

The mashed potatoes served with it was very buttery and delicious and the green salad served alongside was unnecessary and not too appealing.

Isn’t it about time to freshen up the dry and boring green salad that’s served along with almost every main course dish in Israel?

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The fettuccini was perfect! The pasta was al dente just like it should be, and the sauce was peppery and creamy, the fillet was dominant and tasty and the sides blended in perfectly.

A classic dish I would be happy to eat again and again…

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DESSERTS

The dessert menu has mini desserts for excellent prices {15-19 NIS} but we had our eye on the baked cheesecake {31 NIS} and the banana & caramel tart {33 NIS}.

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The cheesecake was New York style with wild berries sauce which was good but not sweet enough in my opinion. The banana tart was baked right there in the restaurant and was served along with a airy cream. That dessert was too sweet in my opinion, and Daniel ate most of it. Recommended for banana lovers 😉

The desserts were good, but not as good as the rest of the dishes we ordered.

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If you’re like I was, and you decided to skip Café Noir because you think it may be boring and predictable, I recommend you give this place a chance.

Only after eating there again did I realize how much we are always searching for exciting and new options and take the classic and elegant places for granted.

So it’s true that sometimes we want to challenge our taste buds and try things we never had before, but just like the familiar home – sometimes we want to enjoy the classic and high-quality dishes that are just enjoyable and tasty.

And the prices? Even though this restaurant doesn’t offer the known and loved “lunch deals” – the meal at Café Noir was worth every shekel: the dishes were precise and big, the atmosphere was great and the service was professional and pleasant.

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* I was invited to the restaurant for this review.

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