Friday, July 15, 2011

Israeli Dinner and Wines at Swill Automatic, Until July 19

Until July 19, "Swill Automatic Becomes Bar Mitzvah" is happening at this new downtown wine bar, serving a 5-course modern Israeli cuisine paired with Israeli wines ($45 pp, $66 with wine pairing). I was invited to try the Israeli dinner on their soft opening night and since I have never really had Israeli food or wine, I was curious. I had the preconception that it would be a Jewish dinner, but the menu leans towards Mediterranean. It turns out that Israeli cuisine has adopted many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences.

Spinach, Leek, Couscous
Spinach, leek, feta, couscous
The service that night was spotty since it was the first time they served a 5 course meal (the wine usually serves small plates). They were pleasant and friendly, but the courses and wines didn't come out as planned. Hopefully it would be much better the rest of the week. Nonetheless, I tried many new things that night and learned quite a bit about Israeli food and wines.

MejadraThe food, as I had mentioned, has a heavy Middle East and Mediterranean influence. Expect no matzoh balls, but chicken shawarma with Persian rice, lamb patties with tahini sauce, and two of my favorites: the Mejadra (fried rice with lentils and onions), and spinach, leek, feta, and couscous, topped with a sunny side up egg. Similarly unexpected, the spicy carrot salad really was spicy, even too spicy for my weak palate.
Fruit Compote and Pistachio Halvah
Dried Fruit Compote and Pistachio Halvah
Flam Cabernet Sauvignon
We tasted wines from various regions: Flam Winery in the Judean Hills, Pelter Winery in Golan Heights (Northern Israel), Shvo in Upper Galilee, and Tulip Winery in Kvar Tikva.

The Shvo Rose, made from Barbera grapes, is supposedly the most popular of the Israeli wines, but it was too tannic for my taste and I preferred the crisp 2010 Pelter Sauvignon Blanc. Perhaps not surprising as Tal Pelter studied wine making in Australia. The Flam 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was full bodied with softer tannins which I enjoyed, though I thought it was too forward to pair with the shawarma (among the service confusion, I don't think I ever got to try the Tulip Syrah).

Israeli cuisine was not something I had really experienced nor paid attention to before, and this dinner made for a good introduction. Similarly with the wine, while I should've known Israel made wine (since they were drinking it in biblical times), their wines are not something we commonly encounter. Hopefully dinners like this will get more people interested, though the staff at Swill need to take good care that they are properly serving the coursed meals with the paired wines in order to achieve this.
Patio seating at Swill Automatic

Swill Automatic
1820 Industrial St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 239-9088

Disclosure: this meal was hosted.


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