When the food is not enough, Sheila Tel Aviv

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When the food is not enough, Sheila Tel Aviv

Postby Joel D Parker » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:33 am

To all those interested in Sheila, 182 Ben Yehuda St. in Tel Aviv, I just had a very negative experience (along with my wife, her brother, and her mother), which unfortunately confirms what my wife and I had read in other internet forums in Hebrew before we went.

The most unfortunate thing is that some, if not many of the dishes seemed to be prepared with care and even proved interesting. But the service was so bad we didn't leave a single shekel tip--and I am morally against doing that in virtually every case.

We arrived Friday afternoon for a birthday celebration for my brother-in-law who particularly loves seafood. We had assumed their would be a couple of token chicken, beef or vegetarian dishes for the rest of us. After failing to bring out enough water for four at the beginning, our first waitress brought out another tiny carafe about 15 minutes into our experience. Eventually, after we were told that several dishes we wanted were not on the menu today, and my brother-in-law decided on a calamari risotto main course, a dish fresh falmida fish on veggies for me, and an 'iron salad' for my mother-in-law who doesn't eat fish or seafood at all (due to allergies). My wife needed another minute to decide, and ended up ordering a beef fillet a couple minutes after the other orders were placed.

Then we moved tables due to the fact that the seating in the place was very awkward, with a skewed table that seemed to stick out into all the people around us. In effect, this made us feel much closer to those people than we wanted to be, and even incited claustrophobia, especially considering the dark colors and low ceiling. After we were told we could go to one table and sat down, then we were told we had to move to another table, as the first one was reserved. Then we had to move again as the second one was also reserved, until we ended up in a place that was altogether cramped, not merely as an optical illusion. Due to the unfriendly and ungracious nature of the staff we were embarrassed by then to ask to go back to our original place. (We would not have moved if we had been told that our desired table was reserved.)

I then asked for an English wine menu, as I had not ordered wine yet due to our nomadic journey which took a long time due to all the miscommunication (and my wife's family is Israeli, so it was not a language issue). After three tries, the waitress managed to fulfill the menu request, but we were already starting to get agitated with the service and I opted not to order from the rather okay wine list and add joy to misery.

Eventually, three of the dishes arrived: the calamari risotto (95 NIS and good), the falmida on veggies (98 NIS very good), and the 'iron salad' (44 NIS pretty good). We began, while my wife waited patiently for her beef fillet (125 NIS) to arrive. Half an hour later, when the three of us had clean plates, we had to go find a waitress to inquire about the steak. It was rushed out undercooked. So we had to return it. After another 15 minutes, we decided to cancel the steak, which had been ordered over an hour earlier. Then the waitress began to rant about how she told us it would be a long time. She was completely rude, even by the politeness one would expect (or not expect) in Tel Aviv, and moreover unprofessional. She did not apologize, or offer to make anything better, and did not allow us to cancel the dish.

Eventually the beef fillet arrived, and was far less than amazing, but my wife ate it (though with shaking hands)--she was hungry by this point.

We tried to get the bill and some more water. They tried to make us feel better after they told us we were wrong (and as we watched people in the table next to us change an order to receive beef fillet in less than 15 minutes) the wait staff brought out four pieced of baklava on the house. The baklava was good, but the experience did not leave a sweet taste in our mouths. Another 15-20 minutes later...we paid and left.

Conclusion: go to Sheila at your own risk. Expect to pay a lot, eat good food. And expect clumsy, negative, and unprofessional service, with a low-quality seafood-bar atmosphere.
Joel D Parker
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Re: When the food is not enough, Sheila Tel Aviv

Postby Daniel Rogov » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:50 am

Joel, Hi.....

The first time I visited Sheila was about three months after they opened in 2006. I found, as you did, that the overall quality of the dishes served was quite good, the then still new chef who had garnered experience at Jerusalem's Cavalier, doing a fine job. I did, however, even then find that the service was (being charitable) "problematic".

I visited again twice in late 2009. The culinary offerings were good but failed to excite and, even though I was recognized by the staff, the service was confused and somewhat bungling. The poor service was largely why the restaurant did not enter into my guide of recommended establishments. By chance I visited there just about three weeks ago. I'm not sure whether the chef is growing weary after a mere three-four years but I found the food rather ordinary and with at least some dishes seriously overpriced. As to the service, I found that so full of errors that I took it more as a comedy of errors than as a true tragedy.

I was planning on writing a re-review for HaAretz but we all know now what has happened to my restaurant column there.
For the moment then, let it suffice to close this mini-epistle with "I will return only if I hear that things have gone through considerable improvement".

Best
Rogov
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Re: When the food is not enough, Sheila Tel Aviv

Postby Joel D Parker » Sun Jul 11, 2010 5:47 am

Thanks for the quick response Daniel,

I was actually hoping to hear that our experience was a one-off, but am sad to hear otherwise. If we had not gone to Sheila for a special event, perhaps we too could have called it more of a 'comedy of errors', but under the circumstances our short stay seemed more Ulyssian: like meeting a friendly three-headed dog on the way in and facing the same beast now barring our way out--of Hades.

I will continue to follow your experiences at Israeli restaurants, as they seem to be quite representative of what I can expect.

Have a great week,

Joel
Joel D Parker
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