Striking a Healthy Balance at Tel Aviv’s David Intercontinental

Most vacationers often don’t mind packing on a few pounds when going on a trip overseas.

They consider it not only a time off from their work load but their dietary routine.

Yet, health conscious travelers, whether on a trip for business or pleasure might be more discreet of what they partake.

If visiting Israel for a family wedding or bar mitzvah their choices during the receptions might be limited to what was selected before they even got off the plane but how about the rest of their stay?

Business travelers might be wining and dining clients at their hotel or around town but where and what they choose to eat can impact how many more calories they have to burn off when they go back home.

David Cohen, a biking and running enthusiast, while on a recent visit to Southern California was impressed with how health conscious the fine dining scene was there and wanted to bring a slice of that back to Tel Aviv where he works as the general manager of the premium David Intercontinental Hotel.

David tasked his veteran chefs to create new menus for lunch and dinner that were flavorful, full of nutrients and fancy enough to meet the expectations of his five star hotel guests.

“We had breakfast covered pretty well. When travelling, I would get strange looks when I would ask for a salad or fish for breakfast, which is common fare for Israeli diners at restaurants or at home. What we needed was to work on our other meals.”

The hotel’s Executive Chef, Alfred Jevnisek, a native of Austria with the hotel for over 17 years, was more than eager to comply. As an avid practitioner of Tai Chi, Chef Jevnisek was the type of person that Cohen wanted to satisfy. Alon Hirtenstem, the Chef of Aubergine, the hotel’s kosher meat restaurant, crafted a menu based on “super-foods” he discovered researching the hotel’s “Health and Harmony” selections.

Oven Baked Salmon is just one of the "super-foods" highlighted on the David Intercontinental in Tel Aviv's Health & Harmony menu
Oven Baked Salmon is just one of the “super-foods” highlighted on the David Intercontinental in Tel Aviv’s Health & Harmony menu

These super-foods not only were packed with nutrients but often also encouraged weight loss. Citric fruit, whole grains, fatty fish such as salmon, vegetables with intense colors whether intensely green like kale, spinach or Brussels sprouts, or orange like sweet potatoes or carrots, dark beets or nuts and many berries provided a wide range of ingredients to be stars of their own dishes or act as supporting players. Could guests actually imagine losing weight on vacation?

As Hirstenstem explains it, “I got excited after reading about super-foods and crafted one dish from 14 different super-foods that if you read the list would have sounded like a disaster but people were impressed how good it tasted. But, one dish doesn’t make menu; so, then I went to work making several dishes that featured several ingredients.”

Dishes vary from vegan friendly choices like an airy Quinoa and Acorn Squash Salad with cranberries and hazelnuts with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing (32 NIS) or Grilled Beetroot Carpaccio with garlic confit and a dash of balsamic vinegar reduction sauce (32 NIS as are most of the starters). Choosing a few like tapas is how Cohen enjoys dining. Fish and chicken dishes offer more hardy dishes yet still in sync with their health forward focus.

Oven Baked Norwegian Salmon Filet comes served on a bed of cauliflower with a broccoli and red onion salsa (120 NIS). It’s crisp but flakey flesh doesn’t remind you that you’re eating to be healthy but eating to be happy. If you prefer white fish, there are two choices of local fish. Oven Baked Sea Bream with seaweed, organic tomatoes, acorn squash with black sesame oil (130 NIS) is a delicious rendering of a favorite local catch while Pan Seared Grouper with potato and zucchini pancakes and picked lemon sauce (160 NIS) is the star of the star of the menu.

Organic Chicken Breast with a vegetable barley risotto and red wine reduction sauce (95 NIS) is the one dish tailored for omnivores or carnivores but the menu at Aubergine has other savory fare like veal chops just not under the Health and Harmony banner.

So, you can mix and match your own meal or someone carefree can eat with someone who wants to be more circumspect. This solves one dining dilemma since it can often be a challenge to find a restaurant that fits the needs or desires of two never mind several diners. Towards this end, the waiting and kitchen staff are sensitive to diners suffering from food allergies and are willing to make accommodations.

The menu changes regularly to feature seasonal variations or specials such as a spot on mushroom risotto or salmon and white fish ceviche served on top of a tomato gazpacho and if they are what’s typical make sure to try what’s new when you visit.

The Health and Harmony selections have been a popular addition to the hotel’s menus accounting for about 20% of their sales and are available from 11am to 10 PM everyday except on the Sabbath. There is even a To Go Health and Harmony Menu available for take out or delivery in Tel Aviv but orders must be placed 24 hours in advance Sunday through Thursday 11am to 4PM but it’s a nice option for visitors who might want to pack a healthy yet special picnic lunch or if they keep kosher but are staying with friends who are not.

Groups of five or more diners and guests of the hotel can also arrange for special Tai Chi classes conducted by Executive Chef Alfred at the pool or on the beach. He has regular classes you can join anyways but if you want a special class you need to book ahead. It’s part of the holistic “Health and Harmony” vision Cohen imagined and just another reason, the David Intercontinental is one of the most desirable stays opposite one of the most desirable beaches of the Mediterranean.

About the Author
David Rhodes is a California-trained sommelier and wine educator who moved to Israel in 2008. David has written over 1,000 articles and radio shows and also has been a political writer since the 1980's. He also has two published poetry books working on his third. David regrets he only has one liver to dedicate to Israel.
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