Saturday, June 14, 2014

Messa - A Lovely Meal in an Attractive Setting

If your food is the same color as
the table, maybe a glass plate
isn't the best idea
During a recent trip to Israel, I ate at Messa, a chef-owned restaurant in Tel Aviv. It was somewhat hard to find. We walked past the door, because it didn’t really look like a entrance. As we doubled back, a doorman positioned himself at it, opening the door to our inquiry.

Inside, form has triumphed over function. The place looks great, but I wonder how much the decor figures into my own enjoyment of the meal. Messa has no small tables. Large parties get tables with high-backed chairs set into alcoves. Couples, or smaller parties, get sat along a very, very long table. The couple to my right were speaking only Hebrew, which made it easy to pretend that they weren’t really there. I likewise pretended that they couldn’t really hear or understand our conversation, even though that probably wasn’t the case. The tall chairs in which we sat were lovely, though I found I pretty much couldn’t get in and out of it on my own. Nor did the design seem to take practicality as a concern; a couple times we heard wine glasses crash to the floor. Their storage area did not seem to be built for the convenience of the wait staff.

Enough with the decor. You can’t eat the decor. You go there for the food, right? We drank a Sauvignon Blanc from Galilee with our meal. They were careful with the wine to get it chilled, but not too cold. This was a nice touch. I’m often disappointed when I order a white wine and get something that’s actually colder than the water in my glass. Here, that was not a problem.
Purple calimari. Yum.

They started us off with an amuse bouche of a tomato soup. This was a yummy little bite, but nothing particularly memorable. As a first course, I had the purple calamari with lemon cream, relish, foie gras. (This is clearly not one of Tel Aviv’s kosher places.) It was fantastic. The presentation was utterly beautiful, and every bite was a delight. It was going to be hard to top.

It was. For my main course, I had the “fish of the day with delicate turmeric butter, gnocchi, and Dutch runner beans.” The fish was perfect. Then they sat it on a sauce (the turmeric butter, I assume), with some gnocchi that were a little gummy. The presentation wasn’t as wonderful as the appetizer. It the end, it looked somewhat uniformly brown. The sauce was nothing special. They probably needed to pay as much attention to the presentation of this dish as they did to the chairs and tables. Not a bad dish, but not one that was all that pretty to look at. Less of the sauce would have been an improvement.

With our dessert order, the asked us if we wanted coffee. James wanted a double espresso. I ordered a café au lait. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is.” I tried for the Italian, caffè latte. “Is that like a cappuccino?” I explained that it was like a cappuccino, except without the foam. She brought me a cappuccino. Italy should as a humanitarian gesture send a team of experts to train the Israelis in coffee making. Of course, the prevalence of instant coffee would possibly be fatal to the Italians.

For dessert, on recommendation of our server, we ordered their Sárközy, which they had named after the previous French president. There was some joke to this that I didn’t get. It’s one of those heavy fudge desserts, of which you take a bite and realize you’re eating chocolate-flavored butter. I love chocolate, but honestly, we just couldn’t eat this.

They comped us a second dessert, presumably because when the waitress asked me how the main course was I told her what I thought of the gnocchi. (My thought is always that if you’re just fishing for compliments, don’t try. I was actually quite happy with the meal. It was a lovely experience; it would take something more than slightly gummy gnocchi to spoil it. Besides, I had the smug satisfaction that mine were better.) We didn’t ask, but I think it was the semifreddo brûlée with banana toffee. That was a delightful end to the meal.

Would I go here again? I wouldn’t object to it. Obviously, if I find myself in Tel Aviv again, I’d want to check out another restaurant.
You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting i enjoy reading your stories this is a really good blog.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...