People are always asking me for my top ten favorites and I do believe there is no definitive list as it depends on occasion, age, style of food and of course, most importantly, personal taste. Having said that I do like lists so why not write my own!
I have started with a list of my favorite kosher restaurants in Israel, as that seems to be the most requested and will move onto other categories in the next few months. This list is based purely on my personal experience and I have eaten at all of these places as a paying guest. The menu in some places varies seasonally so I have tried to recommend dishes that are consistently on the menu or a similar variation of the same dish. There is a carnivorous focus to my suggestions as that is my personal preference when eating out but I have included the link to a full review, if available, so you can find more suggestions.
- Jacko’s Street, Jerusalem
It will be no surprise to anybody that knows me personally or follows this blog that Jacko’s Street is my favorite restaurant in Israel (not just kosher ones) and will always be top on my list of recommendations. It is my go-to place for taking out-of-town guests and even those who don’t eat kosher are impressed by the creativity of the menu and energetic atmosphere in the restaurant – it epitomizes the expression “fun-dining”.
The menu is a Middle Eastern fusion, with many dishes offering an elevated version of traditional home-style recipe. My favorite starters are the Asado Bruschetta or the Red Tuna Fricasse and for mains, I normally order the Gourmet Burger, the Charred Steak or the Prime Rib, if I have a willing partner to share. After 9 pm the music is lively so if that is not what you are looking for, either go early or find somewhere else.
- La Regence, King David Hotel, Jerusalem
The style of the menu is European with an Israeli twist. Signature dishes include the Tomato Leather filled with Sea Fish Salad and the Chicken Consommé to start, Roasted Duck confit with Black Garlic for main and the Chocolate & Olive Oil is an extraordinary dessert. At a cost of 380 NIS per guest, it is definitely a special occasion option for most people and it is a very formal, old-school hotel style restaurant. There is also the option to order from the regular menu.
- Rooftop, Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem
For the ultimate “Jerusalem” setting, Rooftop Restaurant, Mamilla Hotel is a must. The view over the Old City is incomparable and the menu is always fresh and interesting with mostly Mediterranean dishes with a Middle Eastern influence.
I love the Iron-Rich Herb Salad, Duck in a Blanket and Grouper Shawarma starters. For main I cannot resist the Entrecote as it is one of my favorites in Jerusalem, but the Lamb Chops and the Bass are also great dishes. The service is slightly hit or miss but the view and quality of the food make it worthwhile.
- Herbert Samuel, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Herzliya Pituach
I tend to start with a light raw dish like the Red Tuna Crudo or Beef Tartare. The Tomato Salad is the Herbert Samuel signature dish and very popular. If you are dining with a fellow carnivore then I recommend ordering the Beef Chateau or the Prime Rib as they are both great options for a minimum of 2 diners. I have often been with non-meat eaters who have been very happy with their fish main course. All the chocolate related desserts are always incredible and worth saving room for. There is also a very impressive wine menu and the wine fridges line the length of the restaurant.
- Blue Sky by Meir Adoni, Carlton Hotel, Tel Aviv
Yet another hotel restaurant, but the rooftop setting overlooking the Tel Aviv skyline and shoreline is spectacular, even in the winter. Chef Meir Adoni is an incredibly creative chef who experiments with unusual flavor and texture combinations.
The menu changes regularly and the dishes I had are no longer on there but we all enjoyed everything we ordered. The menu is now entirely fish dishes and has more of an Asian twist than I remember, and I really don’t like his sister restaurant Lumina since it became some weird fusion, so I hope Blue Sky is still as good as it once was.
- Gillis Steak House, Moshav Nov
Although Gillis is not a real restaurant, the food is so good it still qualifies for this list. Gillis Steak House is only open on a Thursday night, the rest of the time it is a cattle farm and butcher.
The menu is simple – meat! Some dishes can be ordered individually, including a token chicken dish but for real carnivores, the tasting menus are the way to go. There are various options depending on how much meat you want to receive, but it is all unbelievably delicious so I recommend going all out and getting the Just Beef tasting menu at NIS 238 per person.
The most unique aspect about the place is that the cooks are actually the farm workers, who just know how to cook the meat well and honor its true flavor – there are no special sauces or fancy plating, just delicious well-cooked high quality beef. The service is incredibly warm and the Gillis family personally host all their guests.
- Muza Bahar, Shoresh
Day or night, Muza Bahar is a scenic way to enjoy a very good meal. The Duck Fillet is a clear winner in the starters. The duck is well cooked and it is served with caramelized apples and a Calvados foam, which perfectly complement the flavors of the duck.
For main I normally order the Cote de Boeuf (500g Rib Eye) which is a serious piece of meat but it is well aged and the bone marrow accompaniment makes it even more indulgent. The Trio of Mini Burgers are also very interesting and the Salmon Fillet is a great alternative for non-meat eaters.
The desserts are all beautifully presented but the Deconstructed Lemon Pie was the most interesting and least parev tasting of them all.
- Roberg, Moshav Livnim
I have not been back to Roberg for quite some time but previous visits were so consistent that I still believe it deserves its place on this list. The restaurant is the top floor of the family home in a Moshav overlooking the Kinneret so if you have a chance to go during daylight, I highly recommend doing so.
The menu is fixed price at NIS 150 for four courses or NIS 180 for five and both options include a selection of starters and mains to choose from. There is a warm friendly atmosphere and service is always with a smile. As well as the plethora of delicious salads that accompany the tasting menu, you can also ask for refills if you want more of a specific protein dish. There is no specific dish to recommend, it is more the entire dining experience that keeps people coming back for more.
Roberg, Moshav Livnim 04 671 5656.
- Minato, Herzliya Pituach
Possibly one of the best sushi restaurants in Israel, the quality of the ingredients and the precise of the preparation is what distinguishes Minato from most sushi places in Israel. The menu also includes some delicious cooked dishes like Agedashi Tofu, Katsu Chicken and Minato Yakiniku (entrecote with a mild mirin sauce).
The design of the restaurant and the dishes used are beautiful and add to the dining experience. The only downside is that the restaurant is on the small side so space is limited.
Minato, Herzliya Pituach 09 773 1703.
- Whiskey Bar & Museum, Sarona Tel Aviv
I debated whether to include Whiskey Bar in this list as the food and service were not perfect both times I was there (hence number 10) but the setting and concept are so unique that I believe it deserves to be included and it is also much better than many of the other kosher meat restaurants in Tel Aviv.
It is located in the basement of a Templar building in Sarona, with walls lined with over 1000 types of whiskey, but it is still enjoyable for non-whiskey drinkers like myself.
The Beef Carpaccio and Liver Pate are tasty starters and the Prime Rib and Lamb Chops are succulent mains. The chocolate mousse with smoked whiskey is a shining favorite for everyone.
Whiskey Bar & Museum, Sarona Tel Aviv 03 955 1105.
Some other favorites that didn’t quite make the list are 1868 in Jerusalem, Oratorio in the Elma Hotel in Zichron and the restaurants in the Beresheet and Cramim hotels. Although I find hotel restaurants often lack atmosphere, the fact that they cater to tourists often means the standard of food and service are better.
I should mention that I have not eaten at either Cà Phê Hanoi or Olive Leaf in Tel Aviv but both are meant to be great kosher restaurants. I would love to hear what other top ten lists you want to see and what your top kosher restaurants are.