Dispatch from the Road

Tel Aviv Diary, Day 1

by Jeralyn Gerba

The scene at Herbert Samuel

Fathom's editorial director visits Israel for the very first time. She takes a break from eating hummus and floating in the Dead Sea to share her observations about the Bauhaus city on the beach (and beyond).

Here's what I learn on the double-decker Delta flight from NY's JFK to Tel Aviv:

1. Airline security is extra tight. When I reach the gate, I have to go through a second security checkpoint (laptops out, shoes off). And show receipts for water purchased in the airport.

2. Ordering kosher in coach feels like an instant upgrade.

3. Israel is about the size of the state of New Jersey (as referenced in a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). And everybody knows each other (as referenced by the septugenarian tour group in my flight section).

Eons after take-off, I land at the handsome Ben Gurion ariport and take a taxi to a press junket at the newly renovated David Intercontinental, which is right on the beach and very close to the adorably artsy Neve Zedek neighborhood. The hotel caters mostly to a business crowd (club rooms, spare offices, conference centers), so it tends to have a little more action on weekdays than weekends. But it's one of those larger-than-life-size buildings, with plenty of space — especially for this New Yorker.

It also happens to be a quick walk to Herbert Samuel, a restaurant my Israeli friends have been raving about. The concrete-and-wood room has a big cozy dining bar flanked by smaller tables and wood-slat wall partitions. A shiny meat slicer, backlit wall of wine, and very good-looking waitstaff accent the room.

I dine on a tangy shrimp salad with yogurt sauce, tender drum fish with tiny peas and gnocchi, a prefectly al dente risotto flavored with sepia ink, and a glass of a local white (though the jury's still out on that one).

A peek upstairs reveals an enormous chef's table (packed with patrons) and a kitchen with glass walls. Pretty impressive. I do not see star chef Yonatan Roshfeld, but I hear he's busy with a few new projects around town.

More on that (along with a trip to Jerusalem) tomorrow.

Read Jeralyn's account of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.