Saturday, April 17, 2010

Toto Restaurant, Tel Aviv

There's a game called the association game, you take a word, draw a circle around it and then, like the sun, draw rays out with associated words. Today's word is: Toto. First things that come to mind are, mmm... Dorothy's dog in the Wizard of Oz, that successful 80's band (Africa!) and Japanese toilets (those that warm your rump and even wash it).
Toto toilet in Japan, not at the T.A restaurant.

But enough with the good things, today's association is a dreadful one, a horror one would believe to exist only in the Grimm brothers' tales.
Ok, that's a tad much! ;-)
Toto Restaurant is a lauded restaurant sitting in Tel Aviv, so lauded it's often mentioned as one of Israel's top ten restaurants. Or is that so...?

As you might have guessed, I'm disgusted, furious and offended by the - for lack of better word - poor excuse of something pretending to be an Italian restaurant. While I thought of writing this review in the morning, I decided to be sure not one detail would slip away and let you know, dear Israeli readers, that Toto is most probably the most overrated restaurant in Israel. 
I am writing this post, sucking on a Tums and literally in pain. Because I love food and respect so much those who pour their heart into it, I feel violated. It's like someone farted in a pan and called it ermm... Green Pasta with Shrimps and mussels. Ohh wait, that's one of the dishes I ate. 
Lets start.
After we were given a menu, we were pretty much left on our own. And let me tell you, whoever wrote that menu should be kicked in the rear. No clear description, no methods of confection, no ingredients, just silly empty meaningless names. Me and my P.I.C called our waiter three times before he came, nonchalantly. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to know anything of what was written in the menu and stared at us (and at the menu) blankly, like a dead fish. We asked what pizza was there on the menu and he said... erm... there's ermm... pizza, with cheese... and additions. 
We had pretty much picked our dishes but decided to ask anyways what he recommended and again, he nodded vaguely and said we had already picked the most recommended dishes. How convenient.
Five minutes later, they brought us a plate of sliced bread, which was nice and served with a variety of olives, olive oil and a tomato sauce, very much like the type served with jachnun.

 Good bread, nice olives, bitter olive oil and jachnun tomato sauce

We decided to order 4 dishes and a pizza, so we could get a good sampling of food. We politely asked that it should be brought 2 dishes at the time, so that it would not all go cold. This was completely ignored.
The first dish, Shrimp Calamari and Octopus Bisque tasted alright, but it was no bisque at all. Bisque is supposed to be a creamy seafood flavored soup (you'll soon realize there is a pattern here). This was just a mess of different things, tossed in a random sauce. Ohh, and there wasn't any octopus there either.

 This was probably the best dish, though it wasn't a bisque at all.
That's basil on top.

Then came the pizza... while our first reaction was a "ohhhh nice", it quickly faded into a "errmm... something's wrong here". The crust was neither crispy or chewy... it just felt like a dense tasteless wet cookie. The tomato sauce was good though, otherwise, if you really feel like getting ripped, just spare yourself the trouble and go straight to Pizzahut.

Pizza: Salami, aged Parmesan, old and wilted arugula and basil on top.

We then tasted the green pasta with shrimps and mussels. Ok, seriously, I never really liked dill that much, except in my chicken soup and pickles, but they really went bananas on this one. The pasta was made with dill, the sauce was made with dill and the whole dish had... you guessed, dill sauce! I'm done with dill for the next few years. Pun intended... I could not dill with it. I would love to meet the guy who came up with this brilliant dish and slap him sideways, up and down.

 Dill, dill, dill and basil.

Thought that was all? Ohh no... this is only going down from here.
Blue Crab with Wassabi Cream (yes, they can't even spell "Wasabi"). Four tiny crabs, hidden under a goo pile of over powering wasabi cream. I bravely started to crack the little beast open and pry anything I could from its tiny body, but I mostly just ate wasabi.

I usually enjoy wasabi, but not as a main dish. 
More basil, purple this time.

Did I mention that every single dish was garnished with basil? If I was Italian, I guess that was supposed to make me feel right at home.
We also had ordered the black pasta, but, thank goodness, it didn't make it and we never got to see the likes of it. We didn't complain about it.
Time for the desserts. I must say we had high hopes and wished deep in our hearts that this could somehow redeem Toto... after all, it wasn't going too well.We looked liked two bloated wales, washed ashore, determined to live long enough to tell about the desserts. We had nothing else to hope for.
I'll take the cake, thank you.

Cannoli with Mascarpone for my friend and Tarte Tatin with Whiskey ice cream for me.
Ok, it's just getting late now... I'm tired, my stomach aches and I don't even know how to start with this one.
I ate cannoli in my days, I grew up in Canada in a Italian neighborhood, so cannoli is as much part of my childhood as were Popsicle. What they presented us with was a rolled piece of cardboard. Thick, dry, flavorless and over fried. While I still hoped for a sign of crunch, there's was nothing but an old cookie and within whatever was left of its cavity, they managed to shove some cream. I can't even say if it was good, it was just cookie all over. It was served over a strawberry and cherry salad. But the truth is, it was simply preserved supermarket sour cherries with sliced strawberry and orange zest. They added some pieces of broken meringue on top and that was it. It was sickeningly sweet.

 Rock hard cannoli anyone? The color you see is actually because the thing was overfried.

My Tarte Tatin, which my waiter naively called "tatine", was just sad. The tarte tatin was simply an apple crumble that didn't even taste very fresh, was served with a ball of whiskey ice cream, but all I could feel was the horrible taste of rum extract, the bad one that tastes like medicine. Some whipped cream around to make it pretty and there you have it.

 Deceivingly pretty.

11:00 pm, 500 shekels later and an empty bottle of Tums, thanks Toto.

Did you have a bad experience too? 
Don't get mad, get even. Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Adenda: I just realized that the chef, Yaron Shalev, was someone I actually worked with when I was at Raphael. Though he probably would not remember me, since he was mostly busy giving hell to anyone below him. If I knew he was the chef behind this restaurant, I would have never ever consider eating there. He was  thoroughly unpleasant and had that holier-than-thou attitude which is the hallmark of a snotty little brat. 
If you wondered, yes, it just became personal.


  1. This was funny and sad too. Sometimes when restaurant covers the food with sauce it means the food is not tasty and they think the sauce will hide that bad taste.

    I just wanted to say our toilets are very amazing! ^0^

  2. Ohh, they are amazing indeed! :D The restaurant was the bad part and in no way associated to the very functional and clever toto toilets.
    I almost forgot, thank you soooo much for the spices! I'll send you an e-mail soon about it!

  3. other than the heating function, they are CREEPY.

  4. Foi terrível, hein? lol
    Desejo melhores experiências no futuro!

  5. Marina: Obrigada! :D
    Estas coisas acontecem, mas é sempre muito chato, sobretudo quando é tão caro...

  6. oh boy! that sounds terrible. Hopefully you felt better after some time and started making other yummy dishes to overcompensate :)))

  7. Yes indeed!^_^ I've just been a bit busy these last 2 couple of weeks, but hopefully I'll get back on track with my posts this coming weekend. I have a delicious strawberry pie post coming up soon!

  8. Excellent, not only entertaining but nice to see finally someone voice disgust and call it how it is on what seems to go over and above so many when it comes to restaurant food here in Tel Aviv!

  9. Wow! You've expressed my sentiments exactly. My friend and I had lunch at Toto last week and ordered what was once one of our favorites...Toto's hamburger in wine, with glazed mushrooms and onions. I should have been suspicious when the hamburgers, which we ordered "medium", were served raw but not pink inside.....probably a sign that it had been frozen and improperly defrosted.
    Even before the meal was over we began suffering severe stomach aches and it got so bad that I had to take Imodium that evening. Pity that such a pretty place can't maintain quality.