Alice in Wonderland brings cuisine to life at a Tel Aviv restaurant

Fantastic is one of the crown jewels of the Monkey Business Group, led by master mixologist Ariel Leizgold.

The decor of this particular bar-restaurant – which roughly co-opted the lobby of the Port and Blue Boutique Hotel – is inspired by Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, right down to the “mirror” atmosphere in the rooms. unique toiletries and fuzzy pink bunny ears that clients are encouraged to don.

Fantastic managed to survive the most difficult days of our vexing pandemic, but not without major rationalization. The property still maintains two separate dining rooms – the funky Mad Hatter Tea Room (accessible after walking down a “rabbit hole” passage) and the Ballroom – but the former is now only open on weekends.

Most importantly – and most miserably – the tea room menu has been completely removed. Previously, this section of restaurants served gourmet cuisine on par with fine dining establishments in Tel Aviv. The Ballroom menu is now the standard fare throughout Fantastic.

Fantastic restaurant in Tel Aviv. (credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)

Nonetheless, I still recommend sitting in the tea room: it’s not only greener, with more of an al fresco feel, but also a bit quieter and more conducive to conversation. The lighting in both sections is very dark, reflecting the emphasis on a bar atmosphere.

The printed menus also highlight the origins of the Fantastic bar. The cocktail list is called The Fantastic Shortlist – clearly ironic, as it’s the longest such list I’ve come across, with no less than 20 cocktails (NIS 54-72), two punches meant to be shared. (NIS 115-260) and two blank cocktails (NIS 36). This “shortlist” actually takes up more physical space than the food menu and [very limited] combined wine list!

It also takes longer to read the cocktail than the food menu, especially if you don’t want to fall into the trap of choosing something because of its intriguing name rather than the merits of the ingredients. So, I ended up switching to the cool nickname of Dead Man’s Hand and opted for the much less appealing Dog’s Bollocks appellation because I figured I’d prefer the taste of Havana rum with jackfruit, juice. pineapple, ginger, winter spices, chili and lime. I had to guess, because I really enjoyed this refreshing cocktail with a spicy touch.

My companion, meanwhile, ordered The Gray Stuff, a concoction that contained the combined punch of six powerful spirits – bourbon, cognac, rum, gin, mezcal and amaro – with rose water, jasmine, lychee. and guarana. The result was a complex balance between sweet and bitter – but that wasn’t the most interesting aspect: this very grown-up drink was served in an incongruous, but smiling children’s tea set, consisting of a small mug and a large pitcher, both decorated with cartoon faces.

With such unusual and creative components that make up the cocktails – and the examples above are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of the marvels of mixology that are de rigueur here – we were grateful that the alcohol and food menus were completely. bilingual.

The FANTASTIC Food menu consists of three untitled sections that can be roughly categorized as appetizers (NIS 48-68), middle courses (NIS 48-72) and main courses (NIS 65-135). There are two vegetarian options in each section, but only one vegan option in each of the last two categories.

We started with the Fantastic Bread (NIS 22): a small basket of two slices each of sweet brioche and fresh sourdough bread, served with unsalted butter seasoned with salt and black pepper. There is no gluten-free alternative.

Fish (and seafood) make up a plurality of intermediate dishes, which is why our first dishes gravitated in that direction. The seafood sashimi for the evening was bluefin tuna, with charcoal and fermented chili creams, lime and crispy pastilla chips. It was gone too quickly, compared to the Gravlax Salmon Carpaccio – a generous plate of salted salmon topped with chunks of orange, leafy mizuna (Japanese mustard greens), pine nuts and spoonfuls of labaneh. Overall, the various ingredients formed a delicious interplay of flavors and textures.

There are fewer main dishes than intermediate dishes, and half of them are beef variations. The filet was two good-sized medallions on a bed of a delicate cream of potato sprinkled with candied shallots. Very chewy and slightly crispy beef, grilled a little longer than requested, was not steakhouse quality, but certainly sufficient for a bar restaurant, especially when topped with red wine sauce and winter spices.

The Wellington Burger was new: a burger cooked inside a pastry shell rather than served in a bun. Unfortunately, the end result hardly looked like what had been promised in writing: there was no trace of goose breast or cherry tomato jam paired with the overdone beef patty – albeit substantial.

The dish was somewhat picked up on both sides: a tangy coleslaw, reminiscent of caraway, and golden onion rings, made from scratch. (Full disclosure: At first the fried onion rings were served cooked to perfection; but when we returned they were replaced quickly, with a smile.)

The limited wine list – in fact, an annex to the food menu – includes a few whites and reds, as well as a rosé. All are available by the glass or by the bottle.

The dessert menu is this weird Israeli hybrid of English names with descriptions only in Hebrew. Our sweet dessert choice (NIS 48-56) was excellent lemon mousse, while the cheese platter (NIS 68) – identical to the same platter listed as one of two appetizers – was unremarkable.

Not kosher
Port Blue Hotel, 1 Tzidon Street, Tel Aviv
Phone. (03) 516-4700
The writer was the guest of the restaurant.

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