Botanikaby Tallie Lieberman | 27.10.16
New-wave Nordic cooking, in all its brining, curing and fermenting glory, has washed up on Tel Aviv’s shores in the pearl of a cocktail bar—Botanika. This smart Scandinavian transplant, tucked away in Ultra, Tomer Poleg and Nick Sitbon’s new boutique hotel on Hayarkon Street, has a stripped-back elegance that reflects a commitment to quality over quantity. Chef Yossi Asraf’s small but perfectly-formed menu, featuring just nine immaculately executed dishes (including dessert), makes a compelling case for ‘less is more’.
“If you are going to use only a few select ingredients, you had better be sure they are the finest available anywhere”, Niso Mugrabi, the bar manager explains over a Nordic No. 5, a frosty, citrusy serving of pure Aquavit #1, limoncello, lime, honey and cardamom.
Indeed, the dishes that seem to suddenly manifest themselves clean out of the Nordic grey and woodsy, caramel brown of the dimly-lit bar are a resounding testament to Botanika’s exacting creative team. These foodies and mixologists moonlight as aspiring botanists, growing their own herbs to star in each carefully-crafted bite, and as artisanal ice carvers, slicing perfectly symmetrical blocks of crystal-clear ice for the bar’s signature drinks.
However remarkable the cocktails, the indisputable star of Botanika is the spectacular seafood. The crab flower broth is so intoxicatingly frothy, smooth and smoky, only the most deeply-entrenched sense of decorum may—or may not—prevent you from picking up the bowl and licking it with abandon.
The Mediterranean fish, served on a bed of brown butter foam and adorned with fresh herbs, is as fresh, juicy and satisfying as a steak (and, under the cloak of darkness, may be mistaken as such). The crusty, open-faced smoked salmon sandwich, a toasted log of homemade bread laden with house-cured salmon, sharp white horseradish, fresh ricotta and lemon thyme, packs a zingy, salty punch.
“We are extremely committed to detail,” says Jay Araneta, head bartender, serving another round of Negroni Fragarias, quenching Tanqueray, vermouth rosso, Aperol and strawberry bitters, ahead of the finale: a flower-infused bittersweet chocolate mousse—Nordic noir at its most delectable.
Photo credit Dana Caspi.