Last updated March 13th 2016
Herbert Samuel, 6 Koifman Street, Tel Aviv
Herbert Samuel -הרברט סמואל. Head chef Jonathan Roshfeld‘s flagship restaurant Herbert Samuel is well known in culinary circles as one of Tel Aviv’s best restaurants. It is a premier spot to treat that very special someone, or the ideal place to impress out of town guests. Its reputation is of a restaurant that delivers exceptional quality, beautifully plated food, coupled with outstanding service at an extravagant price.
For those tempted to dine at Herbert Samuel, the Tel Aviv restaurant offers a great lunch time menu at 88NIS (2014-2015 prices) that offers one starter and one entree. But the menu is filled with many tempting options.
Starters like the Herbert Samuel (multi-coloured) “tomato salad” with cheese is a popular and well known choice. The Santa Monica Salad, a large avocado dish with the most amazing jalapeño-lime coriander dressing. Or the Salmon Tartar with habanero truffle and a crunchy and unique rice leaf. The execution and presentation are wonderful. But…
The mains offer much to choose from including fish, meats, gnocchi, veal and pastas. The entrecôte burger on brioche was suggested, with a rich wine sauce, shiitake cream and very satisfying ratt potatoes. But…
But…as the case is with restaurants with impressive reputations, diners go in with many expectations. Herbert Samuel succeeds on many fronts; bringing a satisfying fine dining experience including an aesthetically pleasing environment, friendly and a knowledgeable staff, and food which is eye catching and mouth watering and yet still…
Herbert Samuel, Tel Aviv misses the bullseye, that centre mark by just that little bit when it comes to the food. And that in turn can side track the entire experience.
Jonathan Roshfeld has experienced great success with Tapas-Achad Ha’am and Yavne-Montefiore, and the Alma Lounge. Roshfeld was thrusted into the spotlight gaining even more notoriety since joining Master Chef Israel in season two as a judge. The skilled chef has even parlayed Herbert Samuel’s success into a kosher version in the high end Ritz Carlton in Herzliyah. It would be a shame for the Tel Aviv culinary hotspot to rest on its laurels. Small details with the food detracted from the experience.
In a city filled with other fine-dining options, these small shortcomings could lead to a shift in its precious reputation. Chef Roshfeld should consider focusing some of his divided energies towards Herbert Samuel Tel Aviv improving on the menu so it maintains that delicate balance of noticeable flavour and detail, and still justify the “fine” price.
Dishes at Herbert Samuel
- Santa Monica Salad 34NIS
- Entrecote w Shiitake Cream 88NIS – Lunch Prix
- – Salmon Tartar (42NIS)
- Pistachio Kadif 45NIS
- Americano 13NIS
Herbert Samuel Restaurant Rating
Herbert Samuel, Fine Dining
This has been a difficult review to write I have to admit. Everything about Herbert Samuel is designed to impressed, given the space they are in, the celebrity head chef and of course their reputation in find dining.
Herbert Samuel’s main floor features a large centre bar with huge glass facade that floods the restaurant with natural light. The second floor offers a more private dining experience with a picturesque view of the Mediterranean, and a glimpse into the fish-bowl kitchen, the many chef’s busily plating the fine food. The design is reminiscent of a modern summer beach-house with soft sands and whites, but you could mistaken it as a hotel lobby bar.
To my left, a large chalkboard wall with a comically misplaced drawing of a chef holding a knife and a benign comment written in English. To my right another chalkboard space with another amateurish drawing (this one is not so bad.) I cock my head to the side and look deep at the two boards confused. I mentally note to google chalk artists in Israel. Perhaps Herbert Samuel can dress them up to permanently match the decor and tone.
The service is on point. They are friendly and attentive, and questions are answered with the kind of authority you do not usually see in restaurants. My waiter rhyme off ingredients like a recipe book. They are knowledgable and offer honest suggestions on popular dishes.
The Santa Monica Salad of avocado, lettuce and chicken is a bright green delightfully creamy dish. The accompanying jalapeño-lime coriander dressing is sharp, tart and absolutely amazing. The only thing missing is the chicken. Literally. The server notices my inquisitive look as I mash my way through the salad. The manager comes over. She speaks in a hushed tone, almost trying to match the calm atmosphere. One of the beautiful aspects of this fine dining establishment is their sincere attempt to make things right.
She assures me there is chicken, but to correct a misperception a new salad arrives at my table. This time we both search for the chicken and we find it. Perhaps the chicken is so perfectly done, the soft and delicate chicken blends too well with the soft and creamy avocado? But then what’s the point? It’s like having protein infused avocado. Maybe changing the Santa Monica Salad’s name to Venice Beach Salad, famous for their muscle beaches would make more sense. Regardless it’s a fine dish, but I could only finish half of each salad. I try not to overload on my omega 3’s.
The Salmon Tartar with habanero truffle and a rice leaf, avocado cream, chives and red onion, topped with Togorashi spices was a wonderfully executed and plated dish. While the salmon smelled a bit fishy, the chives were a great counter, offering a punchy flavour, and the rice leaf provided a fun change in texture while eating.
The Entrecôte with shiitake cream and ratt potatoes with baked garlic was a delicately medium rare patty with the most satisfying potatoes and garlic. The only problem was the oversoaked Brioche bun. While the red wine sauce and shiitake cream were lovely sauces, they absolutely destroyed the any delicate taste the brioche offered. I would have scaled back on too much sauce so the bun could be somewhat enjoyed.
For dessert the popular pistachio kadif was a clear winner. Presentation will wow any diner. It is definitely sweet but not tooth-achingly sweet, combining a great creamy texture of ice cream with the crunch of the kadif balls. It’s a bit difficult to bite into the kadif but once you do you are have entered “delicious city.” The pistachio and diced melon compliment each other quite well.
Herbert Samuel in Tel Aviv is the kind of restaurant whose reputation precedes it. A lot of expectations going in to the restaurant, and for the price, a lot needs to be delivered.
The Tel Aviv restaurant has all the right elements, with just enough to keep diners happy. The beautiful inventive food is carefully crafted, full of flavour without being overly complicated. I would consider this restaurant for very special occasions. I would also urge Jonathan Roshfeld to tighten the reigns a bit, correct course and bring Herbert Samuel right back into place as a top fine dining destination among its peers in Tel Aviv.
Fine Food Up Close at Herbert Samuel