Even though Tel Aviv winters really aren’t so harsh, it’s good to know that on a chilly evening there are places to go that serve good-quality fresh food in a cozy, homey environment. With a new and improved winter menu, Hakovshim near the Carmel Market is one such place.
Resident chef Shay Tene has the advantage of being so close to the shuk that he can almost see it from the restaurant. That means he can wander through the shuk and choose fresh natural ingredients each day for his modern take on classic local food.
The bistro takes inspiration from its proximity to the shuk in more ways than one. The table that my friend and I sat at was right next to the main wall, which is covered with shelves filled with baskets of fresh fruit and vegetables, jams, pickles, wines and cookbooks. To add to the homey and informal atmosphere, the kitchen is open to diners.
As it was a mild winter night, our friendly waitress offered us a glass of hot sangria, which was very well received. During the evening, a total of three attentive waitresses served us, all of whom were very knowledgeable about the menu.
To start with, we shared black lentil and ginger cutlets on a bed of lentil siniya with warm tehina and yogurt (NIS 36) and warm fillet steak salad with artichoke and sweet potato in a hot sauce (NIS 46). The cutlets, which are vegan if served without the yogurt, were piping hot and full of flavor. That was just what the doctor ordered to warm us up. The steak salad had a unique flavor, with just the right level of spiciness.
For the main course, we shared eggplant and meat moussaka served with baby leaf salad (NIS 49) and Indian shwarma, which consisted of seasoned chicken with green beans, onion and zucchini with a dash of coconut milk served on a bed of white rice (NIS 52). Both my friend and I concluded that the moussaka was the better of the two dishes, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the moussaka was a very warm and comforting dish – perfect for the winter evening. Secondly, it was more in keeping with the modern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern theme of the menu. Lastly, it was tastier as a whole dish, and the combination of flavors worked better.
Even though all the dishes were hearty and filling, we still had room for dessert. When the waitress told us that the baked cheesecake (NIS 34) was “the best around,” my friend and I looked at each other as if to imply that everyone says that. The waitress picked up on this and acknowledged that many places claim it, “but here, it’s actually true.” Lo and behold, it was one of the best that either of us had tasted in a while. It was simple, with a creamy yet crumbly texture.
Next, we tried the hot seasonal fruit compote with crème fraîche (NIS 32), perfect for a chilly winter evening. The little pot of crème fraîche was a perfect addition. Last but not least. we tucked in to a hearty portion of fluffy pancakes with strawberries and cream (NIS 28). Even though strawberries and cream is more of a summer combination in my home country of England rather than a winter warmer, it worked well with the fluffy American-style pancakes.
Hakovshim represents all that’s good about informal bistro dining in Tel Aviv. While so many restaurants overcharge for trendy shuk food, Hakovshim is the real deal, which has a lot to do with the fact that you can see the shuk from the restaurant itself. With reasonable prices and good quality food, the new winter menu is set to be one of the hottest around this year.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
48 Hakovshim Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 510-8555