Most of the time, Selas operates as a venue for private events catered by Ginsberg. Two evenings a week, however, it is open to the public, in a format that Ginsberg calls a “concept restaurant.”
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week, Selas offers fixed-menu meals built around rotating themes. Wednesdays are always reserved for sushi and sashimi (along with Asian cuisine), reflecting Ginsberg’s love of the sea, as well as his personal relationships with local fishermen, who supply him their fresh catches.
By contrast, on Tuesdays, the themes of the dinners constantly change: this month, for example, will see three different foci: Greek, charcuterie, and Mexican. The night we visited was devoted to Greek and Balkan cuisine, which Ginsberg says is close to heart, as the food he grew up with at home; in fact, the name he bestowed on his restaurant, Selas, is Greek, meaning “a ray of light.”
The Wednesday menus are bilingual, but the Tuesday menus are in Hebrew only. Fortunately, the friendly and attentive waitresses speaks excellent English, and are happy to translate.
Along with the menus outlining the upcoming seven-course meal, we were brought the house mineral water, Zaro’s, from Crete, available as sparkling and still. We were also offered a choice of wine or the evening’s specialty cocktail: ouzo with lemongrass and ginger syrup, uniquely topped with a mound of cucumber whipped cream dotted with chili pepper powder, and garnished with purple basil leaves.
Interestingly, the drink was served with a small spoon for eating the chiffony cream, which otherwise would have been overwhelmed by the cocktail’s pungent licorice flavor. The refreshing drink was an intriguing first glimpse into the creativity of our chef for the evening.
As is de rigueur for any Greek meal, it began with a spread of mezze, featuring the ubiquitous dishes fava and tzatziki. The ultra-creamy fava purée with shavings of grilled purple onion and a thin slice of chili was superb, certainly as good as you would find in any self-respecting Greek restaurant; it was accompanied by a plate of assorted olives seasoned in-house with a terrific mélange of honey, chili and rose hips.
The mezze— which also included a lovely tzatziki flavored with ouzo and lime and containing beets, cucumber and coarsely chopped baby zucchini—were served with rustic Greek bread and crostini. It was about this time that live ethnic music, an electric bouzouki and acoustic guitar, began to accompany our meal.
Another mezze dish served separately consisted of a salad of yellow and red cherry tomatoes, arugula and chili, with crumbled bryndza cheese, and unique balsamic vinegar caviar pellets made by Chef Ginzberg employing molecular cuisine techniques. This dish represented a nice interplay of flavors and textures, building up to significant heat.
An intermediate course following the mezze was melitzana: peeled, roasted eggplant with lime, labaneh, arugula, black garlic and burnt eggplant cream. The simple eggplant, enhanced greatly by the other ingredients, melted in the mouth.
Next cama pipino: delicate ravioli fashioned from razor-thin cucumber and filled with homemade labaneh cream, herbs and green oil-grapeseed oil infused with herbs and pistachio. Finished off with lime zest and a ponzu-shiso sauce, this was a fascinating fusion of Greek and Japanese influences.
Our crudo (raw) course was tuna gently cured in Maldon (umami) salt and green oil -- this time infused with oregano and thyme. Served with a dollop of mild tomato salsa, the extremely fresh fish once again delighted us with its Japanese overtones.
The cooked fish course was red drum fish wrapped in vine leaf and drenched in a cherry tomato sauce flavored with ouzo, tassos olives and capers. The fish was perfectly fine, and the vine leaves al dente -- but the outstanding sauce stole the show, and we mopped up every last drop with the last bits of soft bread.
The sole meat course was gyros: lamb shoulder cooked sous vide and coarsely cut shawarma-style, then served with caramelized onion on grilled flatbread. The slightly fatty meat was juicy and rich, with the caramelized onion adding a touch of sweetness.
Dessert was mastika-saffron malabi with pistachio and caramelized figs. It was a light and sweet finale that deftly combined an exotically flavored pudding with fresh seasonal fruit. It was gone in just a few bites, but the sweet taste lingered.
If there was one complaint we had about an otherwise flawless evening, it was the lateness of the service. The doors only opened at 20.30; and given the ever-slowing pace of service, we did not get our heavy meat course until 22.30, while dessert came at 23.00 -- too much food, as good as it is, to sit on the stomach so close to bedtime. While people who prefer to eat that late should continue to have that option, It is to be hoped that Ginzberg will decide to start earlier in the evening, so that more people can enjoy his artful cuisine.
Rabbi Tanhum St. 6, Jaffa
Tel. (054) 473-3173