August Roundup – latest changes to the Israeli culinary scene

As the restaurant scene in Israel is so dynamic, I thought it would be helpful to start writing updates on recent openings and closings.  The focus will be on my hometown Jerusalem, but I will also include other news from the last few months.

Jerusalem Openings 

  1. Urban Café (Mehadrin) – a small dairy chef cafe near the shuk with elevated salads, sandwiches and pizzas.  The ingredients are fresh and the menu is creative.  I loved the tuna melt and their brownies and cookies look delicious.
  2. Bakshish (Kosher) – the sous-chef from Jacko’s Street has opened a tapas and cocktail bar in the old Jacko’s Street location.  Very much a bar with food, the decor is beautiful, the bar is very well stocked and the tapas dishes are nicely presented and executed.  Mostly an Israeli crowd, but it is good to have a fancy bar in the shuk area.

    Roast Beef Bruschetta @Bakshish

  3. Ofaimme (Kosher) – Ofaimme Farm has opened a second branch in Beit Hansen serving organic farm to table produce with a focus on cheese and pastries. There is also a shop attached to buy produce to take home.

    משק עפאים – הבורקאסון. צילום: @asafkarela

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  4. Rachel ba Sdera (Kosher) – thanks to Rachel from MasterChef, Jerusalem finally has its own Boulevard cafe on Sderot Ben Maimon in Rehavia.  The small kiosk sells salads, sandwiches and drinks.
  5. Amster Bar (Mehadrin) – Dutch style chips/fries in the shuk (Rehov Haegoz) with loads of interesting sauces including chocolate, peanut butter and alfredo. They also have sausages and a large selection of beers.
  6. Hatch – a craft beer taproom with artisanal sausages which is directly opposite Amster Bar (where Steam used to be). Not been myself but reports so far have been very good.
  7. Hamotzi (Kosher)– moved location and is now on Rehov Yafo, right next to the entrance to the closed shuk.  The location is much bigger with an upstairs gallery and lots of tables outside.

Crispy desserts from Hamotzi opening party

Tel Aviv Openings 

  1. Kukuriku (Not Kosher)– Chef Ran Shmueli of Claro fame, has opened a rotisserie chicken stall in Sarona market.
  2. Calypso (Not Kosher) – Tel Aviv finally has a chef restaurant on the beach, thanks to Omer Miller of HaShulchan and Susu & Sons.  The traditional seafood tavern on Frishman Beach is open day and night.

יום שבת, חביבי, אתה לא מפחיד אותנו #calypso_beach

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Closings

  1. Fish and Chips by Fauchon in Sarona Market has closed down – the setting and concept never seemed to work.  It will be interesting to see what opens instead in such a prime position. Netachim inside Sarona Market has also closed but Fleishman Deli is still their sandwiches are delicious.
  2. Crubis and Tahrir in the Jerusalem shuk have both closed down, leaving two more stalls for new places to open in.

Coming Soon

Chef Aviv Moshe, one of Israel’s best chefs, is opening a bar and restaurant on the corner of Beit Yaakov and Agripas called Valero. He is most well known for his restaurants Messa and Quattro in Tel Aviv so I am excited to see what the concept will be for this new venture in Jerusalem.

My Recent Reviews

  1. La Padella brings a taste of Europe to the Jerusalem Shuk
  2. Hotel Review: Ultimate Urban Style at Ultra
  3. Jacko’s Street: A Winning Combination
  4. Les Jumelles – A new French Café near Abu Ghosh

Let me know if you like this style of posts and if there is anything else i should include in the future.

Hotel Review: Ultimate Urban Style at Ultra

More and more boutique hotels are popping up all over Tel Aviv and each one offers something different to its guests. The new Ultra Hotel is in a prime location in central Tel Aviv, for those wanting to experience all that the White City has to offer. A short walk from the beach, the stylish urban hotel is a great option for a modern traveler with a lower budget.

The focus of the hotel is on the guests, captured perfectly in the hotel tagline “Ultra begins with U.” The great service I received certainly reflected this sentiment.

The intimate hotel reception and lounge area offers 24-hour complimentary tea and coffee with refreshments including fresh fruit, cakes, biscuits and an adorable selection of jelly sweets. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and the option to use an electronic key system via a phone app.

Hotel patio – Credit: Assaf Pinchuk

While many of the urban rooms overlook the street, I was given a room that opened onto one of two beautiful shared patios. Although the rooms are fairly small, they are well equipped with complimentary water, an espresso machine and chocolates, as well as a lovely bathroom with a spacious walk-in shower.

The hotel is already popular with locals, as well as tourists and business travelers. It is not family-friendly, although there was a couple from Europe with a child while I was there.

One of the biggest draws for me was the Scandinavian cocktail bar, Botanika in the entrance to the hotel. The bar offers a great selection of cocktails and bar food at night and serves as a coffee shop during the day. Breakfast for hotel guests is also served in the bar, which is a unique setting for breakfast.

I found the buffet selection was more limited than many Israeli hotel breakfasts, but it included everything I needed for a good breakfast – hot coffee, perfectly cooked eggs and lovely breads that were incredibly tasty and fresh.

The hotel offers reduced-rate parking in the adjacent building and free entrance to the gym across the street. The stylish design of the hotel is all thanks to the general manager, Tomer Peleg, and his mother who sourced the furniture, fixtures and fittings from all over Europe.

Ultra is an ideal choice for those looking for a modern hotel in a central location. For more information: www.ultra-hotels.com and for booking rates, click here.

Ultra: Environmentally friendly, with a Scandinavian cocktail bar to boot. (Assaf Pinchuk)

Click here for the PDF of the article in The Jerusalem Post. The full article on The Jerusalem Post website is for subscribers only but it can be read by non-subscribers on a mobile device with this link.

Here is a full review of Botanka cocktail bar.

Botanika cocktail bar brings Swedish style to Tel Aviv.

In the last few years, Israel has been hit by the cocktail craze, with cocktails bars opening up all over the country, with Tel Aviv at the epicenter. Although each bar varies slightly in its décor and style of drinks, many are located in boutique hotels and have a strong emphasis on the presentation of the drinks, sometimes to the detriment of the taste.

Both the beverage and the food menu at Botanika in Tel Aviv are simple and elegant, with a focus on high-quality ingredients and clean flavors with a subtle Scandinavian influence.

Click here for the full review  of Botanka in The Jerusalem Post

Botanika is located in the Ultra Hotel, for a full review of the hotel, click here.

Botanika (Credit Dana Caspi)

Foodie score 9/10, FODMAP friendly score 8.5/10

FODMAP in the Holy City

There is very little information about FODMAP friendly places in Israel in general but from my experience, Jerusalem restaurants are more willing to accommodate changes in dishes on the menu more than in Tel Aviv.  I will try to share my suggestions of where to eat and where to avoid.  I was inspired to create these tips and list by this great blog based in NYC, http://www.fodmapinthecity.com/.

Here are some general tips for eating in restaurants in Israel:

  1. Do not bother to explain the full FODMAP limitations, the most important ones for most menus is gluten free, no onion, garlic or sauces.
  2. Always tell the server that you are allergic to onion and garlic – they do not understand the term intolerance, they will just think you are just being difficult.
  3. Insist that they write on your order no onion or garlic even if they say the dish you ordered does not contain either- i have sent back so many dishes where the menu didnt mention onion, the server didnt think the dish had onion or the kitchen added something as a garnish.
  4. Make sure you explain that onion includes all types of onions, white onion,  red onion and green onion (what they call scallions/spring onion).
  5. When ordering a salad, always ask for the dressing on the side – even if they say they are giving you olive oil and lemon, they will often put on something else.  If you get the dressing yourself, you should be able to see that it is right, or at worse try a small amount.
  6. Do not be afraid to ask for something special.  Some places will accommodate, some wont but if you dont ask, you wont find out.

I will add specific suggestions in the blog posts that will follow but for now here is a list of places I have tried and their FODMAP friendly score.

FODMAP friendly

  • Josef’s Burger, Jerusalem: 10/10 – burger no bun, goose breast or fried egg and side salad or burger salad or gluten free bun (for those who can eat corn).
  • Mitzi’s, Shuk, Jerusalem: 8/10 – burger or sliced steak on a bed of salad.
  • Cafe de Paris, Jerusalem: 8/10 – grilled fish and green beans
  • Chakra, Jerusalem: 8/10  – recommended dishes steamed salmon and green vegetables or steak and beans.
  • Trattoria Haba, Jerusalem: 6/10 -good for breakfast but other food is harder.
  • Machneyuda, Jerusalem :8/10  -grilled fish or steak with green vegetables.
  • Hasadna, Jerusalem: 8/10 – grilled fish or steak with green beans.
  • Michmoret, Shuk, Jerusalem: 8/10 – full review here.
  • Pasha, Tel Aviv: 7/10 – grilled pargit and grilled zucchini.  No starter salads suitable.
  • Carmelli Bagels, Sarona Market, Tel Aviv: 10/10 – make your own salad bar without a bagel.
  • Marinado, Sarona Market, Tel Aviv: 10/10 –  burger no bun and side salad or any grilled meat.
  • Agadir Burger, Tel Aviv and Herzliya: 9/10 – Angus burger no bun, goose breast or fried egg and green beans (all other burgers have onion in the meat mix).
  • Yankale, Herzliya Pituach: 9/10 – salad Nicoise or quinoa salad.
  • The Notre Dame Cheese and Wine Restaurant, Jerusalem 9/10- grilled salmon with steamed vegetables.
  • Fishop, Sarona Market, Tel Aviv 7/10 – grilled fish with green beans

FODMAP Unfriendly

  • Black Burger – 1/10 – all burgers have onion in the meat mix,  salads are pre-mixed and chicken came with a sauce all over even when asked without.
  • Derby Fish Bar, Tel Aviv: 3/10 – very unhelpful, no FODMAP friendly side dishes.
  • Biga, Tel Aviv: 0/10 – refused to accommodate menu changes so left.
  • Roy’s Chocolate Cafe, Sarona Market: 0/10 – very unhelpful.
  • Lumina by Meir Adoni, Tel Aviv: 2/10 – very unwilling to accommodate.
  • Santa Katarina, Tel Aviv: 5/10 – only agreed to change the dish when the chef came to tell me he couldn’t take responsibility for it tasting good!
  • Fresh Kitchen: 2/10 – most components of the salad are premixed so could not accommodate changes.

Meatos takes fish to a new level

Koby Abed brings kosher Greek cuisine to the Israeli public

Fish Market by Meatos

Fish Market by Meatos

The Greek style restaurant is the brainchild of Abed himself, from the beautiful interior design and the fresh and funky décor to the open plan kitchen and, of course, the menu.

Abed was determined to bring Greek cuisine to the Israeli audience, and the concept lends itself well to a kosher dairy restaurant.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Mixing it up at Mizlala

Editor’s update – Mizlala has now closed down

Meir Adoni’s restaurant will enlighten you and excite your taste buds.

Boulangerie Croissant (Credit Dan Peretz)Mizlala

Boulangerie Croissant (Credit Dan Peretz)

 

If I wasn’t already excited to eat at one of Meir Adoni’s restaurants, watching him as a judge and mentor to the winner on the reality TV show Game of Chefs only increased my excitement.

Unfortunately, we were not able to meet the man himself, but I’m sure his talent and creativity are present in every dish that his staff prepare.

Mizlala by Meir Adoni is a quintessentially Tel Aviv restaurant, a popular destination for local Israelis and tourists alike. We arrived for an early dinner on Monday evening, and the restaurant was already busy and got even busier as the night progressed. The decor is clean and modern, with a slight rustic European touch.

Click here for the full review of Mizlala in The Jerusalem Post.

Breakfast by the Sea

Much as I love going for brunch in the Holy City, (see earlier post here), nothing compares to a visit to Benedict.  With 2 branches in Tel Aviv and a 3rd on the sea-front in Herzliya, Benedict serves every kind of breakfast you can wish for and is open 24 hours a day.  As nice as the Tel Aviv branches are, the one in Herzliya Pituach is much bigger, a great location and has a more diverse menu.  I am pretty much a creature of habit and when I find something I like, I stick with it and re-order it again and again and again.  My dish of choice,from which the restaurant is named, is Eggs Benedict Royal – 2 poached eggs served on toasted brioche with smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce (68₪) which includes a green salad and a choice of fruit juice, hot drink, champagne cocktail or ice coffee.  It is the best Eggs Benedict I have had in Israel and is pretty authentic; my only criticism is that the poached eggs are sometimes a bit watery.

Benedict One of the best things about Benedict is their homemade bread served with soft butter, homemade jam and nutella and you can request more of which ever rolls you prefer, so be sure to turn up hungry!  They also offer free refills of coffee before 10am and their “cold coffee” is really strong!

The Eggs Benedict can also be ordered with various other toppings.  If I didn’t only eat meat in kosher restaurants, I would definitely try the Benedict Joe topped with sweet ground meat or the Philadelphia style topped with sliced sirloin and asparagus.

If you prefer to indulge in a sweeter breakfast, the Pancakes take while to prepare but are more than worth the wait.  You can chose from original, blueberry, chocolate and white chocolate with espresso.  They are served with fresh fruit salad, maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar and are light and fluffy.  I was slightly disappointed that the blueberries were not mixed into the batter but simply served as a jam layered in-between the pancakes and I could definitely not get through a whole portion of the white chocolate and espresso by myself, they are very sweet sickly but delicious.

Here is thel full menu to salivate over, I still want to try the Eggs “En Cocotte” and the Egg Balls.

Benedict Herzliya Pituach

Benedict Herzliya Pituach

They don’t take reservations on a Friday and there is always a line, but the service is amazing and they are very efficient at getting the line moving.  I recommend sitting at the bar if you are just 2 people, it is fun and you will get seated faster.

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

As Jerusalem has such a wonderful selection of kosher restaurants to choose from, I rarely eat in places there that are not kosher.  However when I venture out of the holy city, it is nice to see what culinary delights Tel Aviv and the Mercaz have to offer, especially the locally caught fresh fish.

Popular with Israelis from the whole Mercaz area, Sebastian is a French style brasserie, authentically decorated and full of atmosphere.  Located in the industrial area of Herzliya Pituach, this is no doubt a popular location for business meetings but we enjoyed a relaxed meal on a Saturday night and the place was full of locals.  The menu is varied with something for everyone.  I ordered the Filleted Sea Bream a la Plancha with lemon butter sauce, green beans and baked potatoes (97₪)it was cooked and presented well.  For me it was a treat to have good quality fish cooked in real butter because I generally eat fish in Jerusalem’s kosher meat restaurants so the sauce is parev.

We shared the Fruit Tart for dessert which looked and smelt better than it tasted but I do have high standards! The service was excellent and I would definitely go back.
Coffee Bar – Probably the most authentic Italian restaurant I have been to in Israel, do not let the name fool you, this restaurant is of the highest quality.  Located on a small side street wedged between 2 busy highways in Tel Aviv, this busy restaurants seats over 100 people across 4 rooms, a bar area and a large outside area. The clean black design and enormous flower arrangements, accompanied by displays of various cakes and antipasti add to the authentic Italian ambiance. Booking is essential and as we were 20 minutes late, we lost our spot outside but they managed to seat us inside.

I started with Asparagus with Parmesan (47 NIS), one of my favorite dishes and a real treat to find it here.  My friends had the Antipasti of Seasonal Vegetables in Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar (42₪) which was fresh and tasty and the Caesar Salad with Anchovies and Parmesan (42₪) which was nice but drenched in dressing!  For main course I had the Sea Bass with Endive in Balsamic Sauce (92₪), the combination of flavors was wonderful.  I chose mashed potato as a side dish and it was one of the best I have ever had, creamy in texture with a nutty flavor, it was the perfect complement to the fish and I had to stop myself from eating too much as the side dish portion was very generous and I dread to think how much butter they used in it.

One friend had Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Butter and Oregano (62₪), not a particularly adventurous choice but he was not disappointed.  The pasta was home-made and the sauce bore no resemblance to a typical tomato sauce.  My other friend chose from the specials menu and had Drum Fish served on a bed of home-made gnocchi with zucchini with a lemon butter sauce (96₪).  The gnocchi melted in the mouth and the fish was meaty yet tender with a perfect amount of buttery sauce.We skipped dessert and we were brought one on the house.  They gave us Vanilla Ice Cream with Prunes in Cognac (29₪) which was very nice of them but I would have been much happier trying a more Italian dessert like Canoli, Tiramisu or Crème Brulée which I saw a party next to us getting and they all looked incredible.  I have since learnt from someone that they typically will give you a starter or dessert one the house if you do not order one yourself.  This is probably one of the best restaurants I have been to in Tel Aviv and I would highly recommend it.  The same chain also own Brasserie on Ibn Gvirol in Tel Aviv, which is a French restaurant I have heard wonderful things about and I am excited to try.

Rocca at Sunset

Set on top of a cliff overlooking the beach in Herzliya Pituach, Rocca is a perfect place to watch the sun go down on the Mediterranean Sea.  We sat at a table right at the front of the restaurant overlooking the sea and despite the warm August evening, there was an amazing breeze and by the end of the meal I was a little bit cold.  The restaurant was busy with groups of friends, family as well as couples enjoying the romantic view.  We started with a small roll of Salmon Maki (39₪) to share, just to try their sushi – it was very fresh but no better than many other sushi places I have been to.  For main course I had a Fillet of Sea Bass with roasted new potatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic and olives (118₪) and my date had a Fillet of Salmon with chickpeas and mushrooms (118₪).  Both were very tasty but while my fish was slightly overcooked, his salmon was slightly under cooked.  We resisted sampling the dessert menu but the Tarte Tatin, Crème Brulée and Hot Chocolate Soufflé all sounded delicious.  Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and the service was attentive but not overbearing, having eaten great fish in a few other places nearby, this could not compare. Bottom line, the setting is stunning and I would go back for drinks and maybe something small to eat, but I would not rush back for a full meal.

Beni Hadayag – considered by many as Israel’s top fish restaurant, I would agree that the fish is always fresh and there is a great selection.  With branches in the Namal Tel Aviv and Herzliya Marina, both have great views and ambiance although the Tel Aviv branch is much busier so make sure to make a reservation.  Although there are other starters on the menu, the mezze of salads is included for all those who order a main course (and 35₪per person if you don’t), they are delicious and come with a mouth watering fresh bread.  The fish menu offers filleted fish which you can choose to have grilled, deep fried (not recommended for health or flavor) or oven baked in an olive oil, garlic and lemon sauce.  There is also a choice of whole fish priced by weight which can all be deep fried, oven baked with onion rings, oven baked in an olive oil, garlic and lemon sauce or baked in salt.  All are served with baked potatoes.  On my most recent visit to the Tel Aviv branch, I shared a Whole Lavrak (לברק) Baked in salt which is European Sea Bass and smaller than regular Sea Bass and my other friend chose to have Grilled Fillet of Sea Bream (Denise) (118₪).  We all enjoyed the amazing selection of salads to start and our fish was cooked perfectly and was succulent and tasty.  I have taken a few visitors to Beni Hadayag and we have always had a great meal.

Please note: none of the restaurants mentioned here are kosher.

Girl’s night out in the big smoke

Some people think that life in Jerusalem is boring compared to Tel Aviv, well I personally do not agree at all.  I love for its intimate village like feel, the fact that you don’t have to wait on line to get into a bar and its lack of pretentiousness.  There are also many reasons that I chose not to live in Tel Aviv – but just because I do not want to live there, does not mean it is not fun to visit.

Last night I met 3 girlfriends for dinner, we had been trying to coordinate this for months, so it was great that we finally all got together.  Tel Aviv has less of a choice of kosher restaurants, but the ones they do have are excellent quality, perhaps Tel Avivians are more demanding of better quality food and service!

We met at Liliyot Restaurant (formally Lilit), on Rehov Dafna (the official address is Beit Asia, 2 Rehov Weizmann) conveniently 2 minutes from the Arlozorov exit of the Ayalon, straight from work it took me 45 minutes door to door and I managed to park right outside.  Liliyot Restaurant is a beautifully designed Mediterranean restaurant that always has a great ambiance and an interesting mix of locals and visitors dining for business and pleasure.  There are 2 private dining rooms at one of the restaurant, both of which were in use when I was there.  Next door is the dairy café called Liliyot Bakery and they recently opened Liliyot Bistro in Ra’anana  – (click here to read my post about it) .
Liliyot Restaurant
The only way to do justice to the innovative menu is to describe what we ate.  My friend and I chose to share 2 starters as they both sounded so good.  We had the Salmon sashimi in “bloody Mary” and soy (47) which was a very interesting combination of flavors and a red tuna sashimi dish (65) from the specials menu.  For main course she and I both had Goose supreme in citrus honey and cinnamon, new potatoes and a granny smith sauce (98). The combination of the succulent goose meat and the sweet apple sauce was just delicious.  The other 2 girls both had Sea bass which they thoroughly enjoyed.

However, the most special aspect of the restaurant is not actually their food.  They are a teaching restaurant and they take on 15 to 30 underprivileged young people and train them in the kitchen, bar and as waiting staff.  The project is in conjunction with a youth at risk charity and is similar to the Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant.  You could tell that our waitress was not your typical confident, post army Israeli girl.  She was shy and was delighted not to have to speak English with us, but she was so sincere and enthusiastic about her job, that she was a pleasure to deal with.  For more information on the Social Action Project, click here.

Whether it is a business dinner, a special occasion or just dinner with friends, I highly recommend you try  all the restaurants in the Liliyot group and let me know what you think.