Pancakes for dinner? (restaurant review)

Jerusalem Post, Weekend Magazine; June 28, 2007

It’s 11:30 a.m., and I figure it’s getting a little late for breakfast. But at Benedict in Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps, it’s never too late for breakfast. Or actually, it’s never too early for breakfast.

“You’ll hear ‘good morning’ here all the time,” explained Yair Kindler, co-owner and visionary of Benedict. Six years ago, Kindler thought of this new concept as a business idea: a breakfast restaurant open 24/7. He realized this vision about a half year ago.

Located on the corner of Ben-Yehuda and Jabotinsky streets, Benedict has the look and feel of a French cafe- bistro – with its white brick walls, round wooden tables and a shelf with decorative books; but Kindler stresses that Benedict is a restaurant, specializing and excelling in one genre of food: breakfast. Benedict truly is a brilliant idea, especially for a city where bars get busy only at midnight and night prowlers seek munchies at ghostly hours.

“Breakfast is not just a course on the menu, but a whole genre of food,” says Kindler, who believes that in Israel, people eat “breakfast foods” all the time, especially light “dinners” such as omelets and yogurts.

After six months in business, Benedict is already the talk of the morning. Blame it on the gimmick, or on the darn good breakfasts.

I order, of course, Eggs Benedict, but as a non-pork eater, I opt for the Eggs Benedict Florentine (with spinach) for NIS 44. As legend has it, explains Kindler, the dish was created in 1894 by Lemuel Benedict at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria when he craved a meal to treat a hangover – and I can understand its curative powers. The ghastly amounts of fat are sure to absorb any alcohol in the system.

The eggs were perfectly poached, which is a welcome feat in a country which I have found translates “over easy” into “sunny side up slightly scrambled.” The yolk was perfectly preserved inside fluffy whites. The hollandaise sauce, the same color as the yolk, soaked the toast beneath, maybe a bit too much. If I thought I came for breakfast, I finished the meal feeling like I had just eaten a heavy dinner. I could hardly move, and I realized that it’s a dish better shared. But it was well worth the rich taste.

All egg dishes come with a plate of refillable, home- baked breads and bread sticks, baked in an oven on view at the “bread bar.” The rolls are fresh and soft, mouthwatering like biscuits, and perfect for spreading Nutella, which is served as a condiment on every table. Morning cocktails are mixed at the bread bar all hours of the day. There are many servers to keep up with the traffic, and they are all friendly and helpful.

Egg breakfasts range from NIS 36 (shakshuka) to NIS 79 (Texas- style breakfast, i.e. steak and eggs), with several international varieties to satisfy both dairy and meat lovers. While only seven formal egg dishes are listed on the menu, the eggs are merely the medium, and the cheeses, vegetables, and meats (including ham) are the colors of the palette mixed to create breakfast masterpieces. The egg breakfasts come with coffee and juice (go for the freshly squeezed O.J. and not the factory-bought lemonade).

For those watching their cholesterol intake, there are a few healthier options, like salads and muesli. Waffles and pancakes aren’t as generously represented on the menu as they would be, say, at International House of Pancakes (IHOP), probably the closest American concept to a “breakfast” restaurant.

Benedict isn’t suited for people who want to perch for a few hours with a laptop. It is, after all, a restaurant, or more like an edible breakfast gallery, where breakfast is a fashion as much as it is a meal.

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