Eat Here: Herbert Samuel, Tel AvivBy Angelica Malin
There are some meals that you know you’ll remember for the rest of your life. More than a meal, more than food, an experience, a magical one, that has the ability to take you out of yourself – even momentarily – and focus in one one thing, the taste, the flavour, the magic of the dish before you. It is with a sense of relief, as well as joy, when I find one of these treasured moments. Relief because, in truth, it gives me something to say when I’m asked for a hidden gem, a last meal, something you’d travel miles just to eat – I think to myself, I know the place, just the place. It would be veal cannelloni at Herbert Samuel – the most seemingly simple, but deeply rich and complex dish I’ve ever tasted.
That’s what you want, really, in a meal. A place you’d travel to; something you’d travel for. A place that will always be special to you. Hebert Samuel in Tel Aviv has that power. Book yourself a table at the bar where you can watch the rest of the restaurant, like theatre in action, and discover one of the best meals of your life. Here’s what you need to know:
Herbert Samuel is an institution in Tel Aviv. The restaurant opened eight years ago to critical acclaim, and has been serving Tel Avivians iconic dishes ever since. They now have two branches – one near the beach in Tel Aviv (perfect for a romantic stroll afterwards) and a kosher restaurant in Herzliya. The Herbert Samuel tomato salad is iconic; famous for bringing this salad onto menus throughout the city, this dish has been mimicked and re-created religiously, but this is where it all began.
They’ve got an extensive wine menu, which comes all fancy on an iPad, as well as a killer cocktail list. Start your evening at the bar with a refreshing cocktail of Gin, lychee, cucumber, lemon and mint – it’s like an Israeli version of a Tom Collins, slightly sweeter, and utterly addictive. Later, move onto their vodka-based cocktails – my recommendation would be the Martini-like mix of premium vodka, watermelon and grappa. Heavenly.
I’d recommend allowing your waiter to choose food for you; this is the best way to taste a range of their iconic dishes, which have remained on the menu due to popularity. Start your meal with a taste of their amazing small plates; the tuna with Labane is a quirky and unusual dish, combining fresh, tart cheese and perfectly diced raw tuna, with the addition of burnt aubergine puree, which will wake your palate up. You can’t miss their tomato salad – it made the restaurant famous. The tomato salad is a mix of Israel’s best tomatoes in heritage and cherry varieties, home semi-dried tomatoes with a sweet, sour kick, blue cheese, egg and the most perfect zingy citrus dressing. This salad is crunchy, light, and utterly divine.
Move onto a second round of starters (when in Rome) and try some fish. The lightly battered Grouper quenelles come on a delicious, warm spiced curry sauce – the fish sweet and light, the curry full of cumin, flavours of India and comfort – it’s a beautifully marriage, each Grouper a little bite of heaven. The asparagus, served simply grilled, is a refreshing dish, full of the vibrancy of summer – cooked just right, with a nice bite to them. Moving onto main courses, pasta and meat are the order of the day. If you like steaks, their beef filet pepper steak is hung for 28-days on site, for maximum flavour.
The ultimate meat dish to try, however, is their veal cannelloni – the veal is cooked over 24-hours, for the most incredible, melt-in-the-mouth experience, served with a beautiful buttery meat sauce, and inside the most delectable fresh pasta casing. All the pasta here is homemade with the best quality; you can taste a dish of beauty in the homemade potato gnocchi with chestnuts, mushrooms, peas and truffle oil. The gnocchi simply melts, so soft and wonderful, in the incredible vegetable juices – a sensational dish.
The beauty of the food at Herbert Samuel is that each dish glides seamlessly into the next – the skill of a very talented kitchen, you can feel that each dish has been so well though-out, to create a symphony between them all. And, of course, no dinner would be complete without a sweet ending. And Herbert Samuel does sweet so very well. Order the Halva Affogato – it’s like nothing you’ve tasted before. The Affogato is a magical experience; fresh espresso is poured over their homemade Halva ice cream – which is made with coconut milk and sesame – with added crunchy biscuit. The result is a combination between iced and warm, sweet and bitter, sesame and coffee, it’s truly sensational. You also can’t miss their chocolate mousse, which is the most perfect, soft texture with rich dark chocolate, served with homemade Tonka Bean ice cream and crunchy chocolate. The textures of these desserts are like nothing I’ve tried before.
There are few places I’ve tried in my life with better food, better service, and better all-round experience. And I eat out A LOT. But Herbert Samuel takes dining to the next level; with food as good as it promises, and creativity in its masses, this is one place you’ll want to save for someone extra special. We ordered two veal cannelloni. It’s really that good. There’s something deeply intellectual, and yet playful, about the food – each dish a surprisingly take on what you expect, than leaves you wanting more. Just go.