Valentine’s Day in Israel isn’t quite the same as it is in the United States. Paper hearts in pink and red don’t decorate every restaurant and stores don’t sell boxes of chocolate en masse. Nevertheless, the occasion gave Doug and me an excuse to make reservations at a fancy restaurant. We wanted something new and different, so we picked Yoezer Wine Bar, a restaurant located in a cave in Yafo, despite having heard that the waiters were pretentious and terrible. From our experience, the waiters seemed friendly enough… and seeing as we got a fair sampling of service as our waiter kept changing between the long waits for each dish, I’d like to think our experience is representative of the restaurant’s staff.
The restaurant was surprisingly spacious and airy for one that is located in a cave. Candlelit interior and graceful stone arches contributed to a sense of intimacy and elegance, despite the packed, slightly chaotic restaurant.
Slightly limited by the meat-centric menu, we ordered pretty much every non-meat dish we could. Before skipping over the meat dishes, I’d like to note that I’ve heard their meat is top-notch.
We started with blinis with red caviar and crème fraiche. I was a little nervous when they put the dish in front of me as I had never tried caviar and for some reason the idea of eating fish eggs seemed somewhat strange to me. But the newness was also exciting and, as I took my first bite, I was rather surprised. It simply tasted like salmon… liquid salmon in a bubble. The blinis themselves were delicious—they were like fluffy mini pancakes. They tasted a little like undercooked pancakes, in fact, but their mooshiness didn’t detract from their quality (as it would for actual pancakes). The side of cooling, simple cheese, which tasted a little like ski (an Israeli cheese similar to sour cream) and smoked salmon pieces came together with the caviar and blinis quite nicely—the flavors and textures blended and complemented one another.
As we ate the blini dish, our fresh polenta with poached egg and truffle was brought over. It looked amazing—perfectly cooked polenta with a perfectly poached egg in the center, topped with an elegant truffle. Luckily, it tasted as good as it looked. The polenta was sweet and smooth, but with a little bit of grain that gave it texture. As expected, the egg was perfect. The yolk cracked flawlessly, blending seamlessly into the polenta. The dish itself was slightly salty with a touch of black pepper that you felt at the back of the palate, which was delightful.
Our next dish was the cheese platter, comprised of four types of goat cheese.
The first, which was my least favorite, had a strong bleu cheese flavor and was very creamy and smooth with a sour rind.
My third favorite was a brie with a rind with a bleu-cheese flavor. The creamy, thick cheese in the center of the brie also had a tinge of bleu cheese, but it wasn’t as strong. The brie was buttery and slightly sweet, smooth with just a touch of graininess. While the flavors weren’t my favorite (as I’m not a huge fan of bleu cheese), I loved the way the cheese seemed to melt in my mouth.
The cheese that was best with the bread (which was quite plain) turned out to be my second favorite. It appeared to be a hard cheese but was surprisingly soft and easy to cut into. With a nutty flavor and texture that came with a little tang, it was a lovely cheese.
My favorite cheese was the thickest of them. Its rind had a bleu cheese flavor, but the rest didn’t, which was fantastic for me. It was soft, gentle, and incredibly creamy—the perfect texture for goat cheese. Delish!
Our next treat was the truffle ravioli special. It was made with egg noodles, which are slightly stiffer than normal noodles. It was a welcome flavor and gave the perfectly tender ravioli a nice bite and yolky flavor. The raviolis were filled with cheese and peppercorns, which gave the dish a hot touch that was immediately cooled by the cheese. The proportion between noodle and filling was great, allowing us to really taste and appreciate both. There wasn’t much sauce, but it wasn’t dry, either. The truffles were present in scent and flavor, giving the dish a warm and homey earthiness.
We finished our meal with vanilla clouds and passion fruit. The vanilla clouds, which were dollops of vanilla bean mousse, were drizzled with passion fruit juice and seeds. The mousse was silky and fluffy and thankfully not too sweet, as mousses can often be. It was so light and airy that it almost seemed healthy. What sweetness the mousse did have was tempered by the sour tang of the passion fruit.
By the end of the evening, we were happily full. Each dish was modestly sized, providing just enough to satiate cravings without becoming overwhelming, boring, or too filling. All in all, a wonderful meal to have enjoyed in a candlelit cave.
*Please excuse the belated Valentine’s Day dinner post and blurry pictures!