The Times They Are A'Changing: An Obituary for Olga

Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, welcoming foodies to discuss the dining scenes in Israel and abroad, along with all things related to kosher food.

The Times They Are A'Changing: An Obituary for Olga

Postby Daniel Rogov » Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:46 pm

Cafés and restaurants come and go and their passing rarely inspires little more than an update to one's list of restaurants. This morning, happening to be on Tel Aviv's Jabotinsky street on the way to a wine tasting, I stopped for a coffee at Café Olga. I was greeted with the same warm greeting that always awaits me here but following that greeting the daughter of the owner who was "on duty" at the time told me that Olga will be closing next week. My first reaction was to catch my breath in disbelief. My second reaction, on realizing that she was not at all teasing, was a sense of loss and sadness.

Olga, it must be understood is no mere café. Olga, which has been in the same location for 50 years, is a Tel Aviv institution par excellence. As Procope is to Paris, as Harry's Bar is to Venice and as Fink's Bar was to Jerusalem, so is Olga's to Tel Aviv. Perhaps the best way in which I can express my feelings about Café Olga and its proprietor is to reprint here the review I wrote in HaAretz in 1991.

It should be clearly understood that there is nothing fancy or pretentious about this café which, for thirty-one years the regular clientele have considered more a home away from home than a commercial establishment. The café opens at six in the morning, but by five-thirty a good many of the regulars are already seated outside (even on the coldest winter days), nearly all of them reading a copy of HaAretz. Until the cafe opens the favorite topics of discussion are about interest rates, the activity on the stock exchange and the lack of rain. When the first cups of coffee and hot rolls or croissants and butter make their way to the tables, silence falls for a short while, because at six in the morning there is nothing that could possibly be more important than coffee and hot rolls.

Later in the day, especially during the months of winter, it is goulash soup that reigns supreme. There are few things in the world that can give as much joy as Cafe Olga's goulash soup. In addition to being a great way to warm the body, fill the stomach and infuse the soul with a sense of well-being, this is truly delicious fare. In fact, this goulash soup is so good that it is capable of helping people getting over shattered love affairs and soothing the perpetual anxiety we have about the size of our overdrafts. There is very little for which Olga's goulash soup is not good for.

Served in a large, deep bowl the soup contains a generous portion of perfectly cooked, just fatty enough beef and an abundance of potatoes. There are also traces of tomatoes, onions and green peppers, all of which were first sautéed in chicken fat and then came together in a thick rich stock. Just the right amounts of black pepper, dill seed and paprika add subtly to the flavor. One also feels a hint of marjoram here, just enough to tantalize. As to the chunks of potato in the soup, those have absorbed just enough of the soup liquids and are done just to the point of being soft but still offering a bit of resistance to the teeth. To the truly old-timers who make Olga their own, this is goulash so magnificent that it is as much the heart of nostalgia as it is mere food and, as nostalgia can do, is good enough to bring a tear of joy to the eye.


Of course Olga was more than rolls, coffee and goulash. One should not, for example, ever forget the krupnik (a Polish soup made from rich chicken stock in which one will find an abundance of barley, chunks of beef and vegetables and, for those who do not observe kashrut, a generous dollup of sour cream). In addition to its splendid aromas and flavors Olga's krupnik was so filling that no known mortal would ever dream of ordering a second helping. Like the goulash soup, this too provided a full meal that brought back the days in the old country for the elders of the city who came here and as an introduction to the world of their grandparents to the young.

In recent years the regulars at Olga have grown older, so much so that the first place in the newspaper to which many have turned were the obituary notices to see who might not be making an appearance that day. And as it closes this coming Friday afternoon for the last time, Olga itself will have passed. Sic transit Gloria mundi

Best
Rogov
User avatar
Daniel Rogov
Resident Curmudgeon
 
Posts: 12964
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:10 am
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

Re: The Times They Are A'Changing: An Obituary for Olga

Postby Bobby S » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:02 am

Por qua pas, Rogov? In Vienna there are cafes over 100 years old. What makes the clientele age out, and what makes it no longer worth at least selling a place like that?
Bobby S
Wine geek
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:08 am

Re: The Times They Are A'Changing: An Obituary for Olga

Postby Daniel Rogov » Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:14 am

Bobby, Hi....

Indeed ye be correct and cities like Paris, Vienna, Zurich and even dear ancient Venice have cafes that are well into their second century, many even boasting the same decor and ambiance that they had when they first opened. The difference between those European cities and Tel Aviv and New York is twofold.

First, in Tel Aviv and New York and many other New World cities, as generations pass, so do the places they haunted, the younger generation wanting things that are considered "new" and "more exciting". Second, as much as the "corporate style" has conquered much of even the Old World, places and things that are "old" are more valued even by those who govern us and are thus supported to become landmarks rather than nuisances.

You refer for Vienna. Think of how absolutely ludicrous it would be should Demel or Sacher become a "chain of cafes". Think even further of each of the branches of each branch as they might be modelled, as artificially as possible, after its parent. The horror of "the original Sachertorte", each with a certificate of its "originality" appearing in 150 mass-market cafes.

Best
Rogov
User avatar
Daniel Rogov
Resident Curmudgeon
 
Posts: 12964
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:10 am
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel


Return to Israeli and Kosher Culinary Corner

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron