As you walk into the tiny restaurant just off Allenby a few blocks from Carmel Market, you can be forgiven for thinking you are stepping into someone’s cottage; the small deck outside resembles a porch, and the décor inside has homey touches.
Even the fragrant herbs growing in the boxes on the railings of the al fresco area lend an atmosphere of domesticity; it is quite possible a diner would witness a chef coming out to pick herbs that will go into the next course.
The kitchen in which the chefs work seems impossibly small to turn out the complex and sometimes even elaborate dishes that are served.
But it seems Chef Cohen-Tzedek has a knack for stretching her resources: she is the mother of small children, and also manages to run a popular restaurant.
In order to juggle her time, she keeps the restaurant closed from Friday to Sunday, opens on Monday for lunch only, and serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday.
The entire evening menu fits on a single typewritten page and consists of three sections: First Courses, Main Courses, and Desserts.
The vegetarian options are mostly confined to the starters, which include the chef’s signature budino, as well as one salad and one soup.
The lone soup on the menu is a crab bisque -- more like a consommé, actually -- made with pumpkin instead of the traditional heavy cream.
Flecked generously with strands of sweet crabmeat, the tasty soup hit the spot not only temperature-wise, but also by virtue of the pleasant tingle of heat it left on the tongue.
Also among the first courses was pistachio artichoke pasta -- thin, delicate strands of pasta, with the subtle pistachio flavor blended into the dough, without the benefit of the actual crunch of nuts.
Together with slices of fresh artichoke, the dish as a whole was flavorful and satisfying.
Our first main course was the osso bucco, which at Hess 4 is not the usual veal but rather beef. This version of meat slow-cooked in red wine was fall-off-the-bone tender, and -- served with creamy mashed potatoes -- added up to a particularly hearty and delicious dish.
Our pasta selection as a main course was the pappardelle verde di mare -- shrimp and calamari with broad ribbons of green pasta cooked to just the soft side of al dente.
The seafood that was supposed to be an assortment turned out to be virtually all calamari, accompanied by one lonely shrimp; that said, the calamari were market fresh and the pasta in a minimalist tomato sauce was excellent.
There is a limited list of wines imported from Italy, with an even more limited selection available by the glass. The restaurant offers no specialty cocktails, but they will mix a classic cocktail on request from its limited bar.
The five desserts listed represented some difficult choices, but we were intrigued by the one named “floating island”-- a mound of soft meringue heaped on sweet cream sharing a goblet with amarena cherries. All in all, an exquisite confection.
Finally, the apple tart was basically a very sweet small baked apple, with no crust to speak of. Served with premium vanilla ice cream, this dessert, while unremarkable, was pleasant enough.
4 Hess St., Tel Aviv
Tel. (03) 555-1038