Tucked away on a side street right off Jerusalem Boulevard, which cuts through the heart of Jaffa, Hatarnegol is a quaint eatery that exudes both coziness and class. I chose to sit at the small outdoor bar, where I had a view of the street and the interior of the restaurant.
Though Hatarnegol, which means “the chicken” in Hebrew, serves both meat and dairy dishes, I went on a night when they were offering a special gourmet vegan menu. This tradition occurs once a month and began over the past winter. Owner Naama explained that she and fellow owner Roi wanted to “do something different.” While she hasn’t noticed a particular trend of returning vegan customers, Naama pointed out one diner who was a repeat customer of the vegan option.
I started with a glass of fresh apple juice (NIS 12). I was surprised to watch the server make the apple juice squeezed fresh from real apples, similar to the way orange juice is often made fresh.
The juice is absolutely delicious, and I asked Naama about the decision to make fresh apple juice.
“I can’t understand why more places don’t do it; it tastes great and it’s actually more economical than making fresh orange juice,” she replied.
She explained that the juice maker came as an unexpected gift when the restaurant ordered a food processor. The rest, as they say, is history.
My apple juice was accompanied by a starter of focaccia, cut into a neat triangle and served with tehina and olives. The freshly baked bread was soft and warm and seemed to melt in my mouth.
Lightly topped with salt and pepper, the fluffy focaccia was fantastic – and that was even before I dipped it into the tehina.
The tehina had its own distinct flavor that revealed a hint of lemon. A great accompaniment to the focaccia, the tehina was among the best I have ever tasted in Israel, no easy feat.
Around this time, I noticed the light soul music playing in the background. Though I enjoyed the music, I was told that the repertoire changes, depending on the night. This week there will be a psychedelic themed menu, replete with colorful foods and trance music. So it seems that the musical element of Hatarnegol coincides with the menu.
After a few moments, the carpaccio (NIS 38) I ordered came out. The presentation was simple but elegant. An array of thinly sliced cucumbers, zucchini and radish was sprinkled with dried raisins and topped with a light vinaigrette dressing. Though I consider myself a fast eater, I decided to eat this dish slowly and savor the taste.
My decision was instantly justified, as the subtle flavors of the dressing and intermittent raisins pervaded every healthful bite.
Hatarnegol’s gourmet vegan menu changes with the seasons to offer lighter summer evening meals and heavier, warming winter dinners.
Naama was also quick to point out, for the vegan diners out there, that many of their regular dishes can be made vegan with a simple request to leave out the cheese or meat, an option they are happy to accommodate.
Throughout my meal, the service was timely and carried out with a smile. Without the staff being overbearing or ignoring me completely, I felt totally at ease and well taken care of.
On a hot summer Jaffa night, this was the perfect light dinner – and reasonably priced.
I am not a vegan but if I were, Hatarnegol has shown me that life wouldn’t be too bad. This satisfied customer gives Hatarnegol an enthusiastic two thumbs up.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Hatarnegol Not kosher 4 She’arit Yisrael, Jaffa-Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 744-4332 http://hatarnegol.com/.
Sunday – Thursday 8 a.m. – midnight. Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. – midnight.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!