Flea Market – Lacking Self Esteem

We discovered Flea Market while we waited for our table at nearby Puaa in Jaffa.  Snuggled among the antiques and alleyways of the Jaffa Flea Market we were captivated by the design, more than by our quick glance at the menu, so decided to give the new place a chance.

We booked a table for Wednesday at 8:30 and specifically asked to be seated in the front section of the restaurant.  We wanted to get the feel of sitting in the restaurant (which is beautifully designed, and I should hope so I hear they invested 3 million Shekels in the restaurant’s design) without being shoved onto the back upper platform which seemed to be a bit disconnected from the rest of the restaurant.  Unfortunately, when we got there we were given the choice of the back platform, or outside.  Despite the 100% humidity and over 30 degrees Celsius we went for the outside which had a hipper feeling going for it.

Due to Ramadan celebrations in Jaffa the girls, who walked, arrived before the boys, who drove, and we asked the waiter for a wine recommendation.  While he did recommend one reasonable bottle, the majority of his recommendations were at the higher end of the wine list (ah up-selling) and when we asked him about a specific wine and how it was he had no clue what kind of wine it was (definite negative, know your wine – although the place is still new, he could have at least gone to check and gotten back to us).

Since we love our food and the four of us have a great eating realtionship we decided to order 4 “appetizers” and 4 “main courses” (I use these terms loosely as following in the footsteps of “market to table restaurants” the plates are relatively small and meant to be shared).

Appetizers: 

Black & White Calamari (53NIS): Calamari seared on the plancha, with fava beans, okra chips, goat’s milk yogurt and squid ink. Probably my favorite dish of the evening, though the only unique thing about this dish were the okra chips – which I found to be chewy and hard to eat.

Red Tuna Nicoise (59NIS): Seared tuna in a cracked black pepper and coriander seed crust served with cherry tomatoes, peas, potatoes, olives, radishes and red onion.  The tuna on the dish was nicely seared and had a nice flavour going for it, unfortunately the surrounding elements were lacking a little umph – the peas and potatoes seemed limp and tasteless while the radishes just felt a little out of place.  Finally, the red onion.  I am not an onion lover.  More like I hate onion, particularly when it’s raw.  In this salad it felt like the red onion was replacing the lettuce – i.e. it was being used as a filler.  I would have much preferred a smaller dish with less red onion.

Seared Sweetbreads & artichokes, with baby fennel, baby beets and cauliflower cream (69NIS): Another disappointing dish. Considering this is offal meat, and supposedly an appetizer, the price was ridiculous considering there were 4 small sweetbreads in the pan it was served in.  Since I’m a “flexitarian” and I love sweetbreads I thought I’d give them a try.  While the texture was right on, the flavor was all wrong – they had none.  In addition, the artichokes were also bland (how can you make bland artichokes???) as were the beets (extremely disappointing for this beet lover).

Asparagus with Quail egg (53NIS): Considering the price of asparagus at the market (18NIS for a large bundle) I found it exorbitant that we were being charged such a ridiculous amount of money for 5 pieces of asparagus and a quail egg (2NIS a piece).  However, I would have been appeased if the dish was out of this world – it wasn’t.  The asparagus was overcooked and bland and the sauces surrounding the limp veggies did nothing to liven them up.

Entrees:

Smoked  tomato risotto, with Rosemary oil, basil, lemon zest and topped with a zucchini flower stuffed with ricotta (75NIS): I love zucchini flowers, and lucky for Fleamarket it was lovely.  The risotto however was not.  It was watery and was overpowered by the taste of the lemon zest which was funny considering it was fairly tasteless.  I ate the zucchini flower and sent it back.  I have to say I was very impressed when we received the bill and it was taken off without me having to put up a fight (a rarity in the land of customer service).  All in all an obviously failed dish.

Ossobucco Shwarma (69NIS): Italian grandmother’s everywhere are rolling over in their grave that this shwarma is being called ossbucco.  The meat was dry and the mix of lentils and crème fraîche (with Amba nonetheless) made it taste like an over-sweetened coffee – not to my liking.

Naked Hotdog (69NIS): Pretty much a Romanian kebab,  something near and dear to my heart (my grandmother used to make these all the time).  This dish received pretty good reviews across the board, maybe a bit on the salty side, but that’s how I like my kebabs. Win.

Duck Confit (75NIS): While the duck itself was fairly tasty the strange “pasta sheet” as it was described in the menu was soggy and flavorless at best (a recurring theme this evening), this dish could have been a success if it had been served with something like a Spätzle.

Desserts

Deconstructed Lemon Meringue pie: The meringue was nicely charred and the lemon curd perfectly tart and then the lack in self esteem became evident (as noted by Grumpy Man Eats).  Not everything needs to be deconstructed.  However, if you’re going to go ahead and deconstruct at least stand behind your idea and it’s simplicity.  This dish looked like the chef had lost his nerve and decided to throw on whatever was lying around the pastry section of the kitchen – financiers, whipped cream, berry compote – you name it was there.  A fairly disappointing way to end a fairly disappointing evening.

A note about the service:  While someone kept refilling our water (amazing!) and whichever waiter we waived down made sure to pop by to see what we needed, our waiter had either forgotten we’d existed or we had scared him off because we didn’t see him again until desert had been served.  However, as I’ve already mention kudos for taking the uneaten plate off the bill without having to put up a fight.

Final tally: Sept (7) points (out of a possible 12)

I feel like if this restaurant took some time to  reexamine it’s dishes it could come up with some tasty treats, for the time being I’d steer clear of this place unless you’re looking for a funky place to have a drink (sit at the bar).

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