I was recently invited to Spiegel a café located on the corner of 2nd and 1st avenue. There, restaurateur Shmulik Avital and Executive Chef Dario Tapia (formerly at Westville and Maison Kayser - that promises some great pastries), crafted an international menu with Mediterranean influences. The name is an homage to Sam Spiegel, the film producer known for movies like Lawrence of Arabia, On the waterfront or The Bridge on the River Kwai, Shmulik being a huge old movie fan.
Spiegel is a small place, with only 31 seats, that will at some point expand with a wraparound outdoor café. The centerpiece of the dining room is definitely the 19 seats white oak U-shaped bar designed in a way to ensure a maximum conviviality, regular bar accessories, such as the tap or the espresso machine being setup lower, so they minimally obstruct the view, as well as an opening on the kitchen in the back, that not only allows customers to see what is going on there, but also allows the Chef to see what is happening in the restaurant.
Food wise, the menu is international. I admit that this categorization is a bit confusing for me, but, after looking at the menu and tasting some of the dishes, I would call it new mediterranean. You will soon discover why!
We first started with appetizers.
Stuffed mushrooms, made with cream cheese and smoked salmon.
I do not know if it is the case, but I thought it could be interpreted as a nice lox and cream cheese take. First of all, it was fried and anything fried tastes divine and comforting. The most surprising part here was the delicious smokiness that came through.
Then, we tried the zucchini fritters, a dish composed of feta and dill and served with arugula salad and tzatziki.
Another comforting dish for sure, nicely crispy and very addictive. I definitely recommend these two fried appetizers.
The last one was the baked feta, that was served with Moroccan tomato and pepper sauce, eggplant, kalamata olives.
That was a very original way of serving feta, the cheese complementing perfectly the bold flavor of the tomato, pepper and eggplant sauce.
We then tried two salads:
The kale salad, composed of kale, radicchio, alfalfa sprouts, hard-boiled egg, avocado, roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, golden raisins. The vinaigrette was made with pomegranate.
I admit that I was a bit apprehensive to try that salad, because I am not the biggest fan of kale. But, in fact, I really liked it, the sweetness coming from the raisins and pomegranate giving another dimension to what could have been a boring salad.
Then came the Spiegel chopped salad, composed of cucumber, tomato, red pepper, onion, celery, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, chickpeas, heart of palm, avocado and fried halloumi.
I admit that I did not really care about this one as I am not a salad guy and could not taste the halloumi....
For the entrees, we started off with the grilled salmon that had definitely an elegant presentation.
That was a very good dish composed of crispy potatoes (I wish I had more!), roasted fennel, warm tomato chimichurri, arugula and crispy garlic. Of course, the star of the dish (after the potatoes) was the salmon that was perfectly cooked.
Then came the schnitzel plate, that was accompanied with jasmine rice and...tahini. Yes, you read well: schnitzel and tahini; what a surprising combination! And it works!
The last entree was the couscous, a dish I was thrilled to try.
This was a totally vegetarian dish and it might be a great idea to propose meat like chicken or merguez as a supplement, so it can be shared by vegetarian and meat lovers. The way it was presented is as you can see on the photo, meaning, the veggies and couscous came together and not separate as it is usually served in Moroccan restaurant (did I mention that the owner's mother is from Morocco?). Nice dish for sure.
You may think that we stopped there, but, before dessert, at the same time our dishes were served, we got to taste several side dishes:
Moroccan carrots (made with ras el hanout - a spice blend that I use when I make couscous):
Marinated beets (nice cumin taste):
Broccoli (well, not just broccoli: they were smothered with tahini):
And when we thought, again, that was it, we got to try some burgers...The first one was The Kipling, probably as an homage to the writer.
It was made with the same sauce that accompanied the baked feta: Moroccan tomato and pepper.
The second burger was The Classic:
If I had to pick, I would choose The Kipling as my favorite as more flavorful and a bit more original, the difference being the sauce. Concerning the sides, I think they were there arbitrarily to allow us to try all of them. With the burgers came some crispy fries, as well as a delicious Israeli salad.
Then finally, came dessert. This was long awaited as the pastry Chef, Dario Tapia used to work at Maison Kayser. Well, our expectations were met! First came a delicious mousse au chocolat:
And a very good apple tart that had a nice hint of cinnamon.
All these desserts, although classic, were well executed and a great way to end a delicious meal that I enjoyed in company of my fellow bloggers. Would I go back to Spiegel? Certainly and I would be curious to try their brunch as I already eyed their Tunisian sandwich or their vegan omelet that seems similar to a soca, a dish made in Nice, South of France. So if you go, I might be there!
Enjoy (I did)!
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