As a learned culinary critic once opined, there are few things that don’t taste better under a layer of melted cheese (think pasta, fondue, etc.).
Call them what you want: panini, grilled cheese, or, as modern Hebrew does, “toast,” most Western foodies love the taste and texture of hot cheese sandwiches that ooze the gooey result. .
Israelis are no exception, and two new local restaurants, one fixed and one mobile, are betting they can cater to almost any taste by offering menus that revolve almost entirely around melted cheese.
Melt Room is the reincarnation of Street Chef, a “fast fusion” restaurant by chef Liroy Kapuza, which was reviewed earlier in these pages (14.2.21).
Kapuza’s original gourmet interpretations of street food were detailed in a menu that comprised no fewer than eight sections; Their current bilingual food menu has been simplified to just four: Sliders (NIS 36-44), Grilled Cheese (NIS 22-45), Fries (NIS 17-32), and Mac & Cheese (NIS 20-35).
However, as before, there are quite a few vegetarian options, but limited vegan ones; on the other hand, grilled cheese sandwiches can be ordered on gluten-free bread.
Category titles should not be taken too literally. There are no small burgers between the sliders; rather, the name seems to derive from the shape of the small paired buns in which the five sandwiches are prepared.
It’s worth ordering something from this section just for the bread component – fluffy buns lightly slathered with herb butter and then baked to form a thin, crisp crust. Case in point: The veggies on the vegan slider weren’t noticeable when eaten with a fork, but they took on a whole new dimension when eaten as a sandwich.
Similarly, only gluten-free versions of grilled cheese sandwiches emerge with so gender-identified golden bread – the various fillings now come in a soft brioche bun.
As Kapuza explains, “When Israelis see grilled cheese, they only see a sandwich; when the same thing is served on a bun, they consider it a meal. “
Be that as it may, their Ruben Melt – butternut brioche with roast beef, corned beef, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, house aioli and jalapeno cabbage – is a thick, decadent delight and well worth the excess cholesterol. We enjoyed it with a side of great hot fries.
We were less impressed by the Cordon Bleu, in which the chicken was dominated by the cheese, and the ordinary, simple Mac & Cheese (although there are four versions of this classic comfort food and one of the improvements could have improved it).
Melt Room shows occasional glimpses of Chef Liroy’s brilliance that we had experienced with the Street Chef. Hopefully he will improve by recovering some of the greatest successes from his old endeavor.
A food truck named after a dog.
Arguably the chef most identified with the trend toward better-than-average fast food is Omer Miller, who left the world of fine dining to launch Susu and Sons, a highly successful burger chain. More recently, he opened Leon, a food truck on Herzl Street in Tel Aviv, specializing in toasted sandwiches.
Now, Miller has joined forces with Paz Oil Company to create the Yellow Chef Trailer, which serves Leon Toasts. The trailer will be parked in the Yellow convenience store parking lots of various Paz gas stations, rotating from one location to another until a decision is made on a more permanent site (or sites).
León’s business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm and Friday from 8 am to 2 pm; the trailer is closed on Saturdays.
The food menu, in Hebrew only, although an English one is reportedly on the way, consists of four sections: Dairy Toasts (NIS 13 / 25-17 / 38), Meat Toasts (NIS 18 / 32-23 / 42), Morning Sliders (NIS 23-27), and Cakes / Cupcakes (NIS 12-17).
Although both meat and dairy are served at the same counter, they are never combined in the same sandwich. Although it is also closed on Shabbat, the trailer is not certified kosher. There are no vegan or gluten-free products anywhere on the menu.
The option of ordering half the sandwiches or whole sandwiches (as reflected in the dual prices above) allowed us to sample a variety of panini, ranging from plain and simple to almost gourmet. We quite enjoyed the mozzarella-pesto, with tomato and toasted almonds, and the mushroom-parmesan, one of two possibilities with two different cheeses.
The meat panini we tried, goose breast with aubergine and Ruben’s coleslaw, was satisfying, but barely warm. Also, the latter inexplicably came with only corned beef and no coleslaw (probably a one-time oversight).
For dessert, our ricotta and blueberry dough, despite the virtual absence of the fruit component, was delicious.
There is a more than adequate selection of cold and semi-frozen drinks, along with soft ice cream. Finally, the hot coffee from the espresso machine was surprisingly good.
The Yellow Chef Trailer is unabashedly a takeout place, designed for motorists – the sandwiches are served in paper sleeves, making them convenient for drivers to eat on the road.
Most of the places in Paz where the truck will be parked will have picnic tables, but seats are not guaranteed.
Ibn Gvirol Street, 24, Tel Aviv.
Tel. (03) 674-3503
The writer was a guest at restaurants.