The beautiful people, the buzzing atmosphere, the Latino music and the
Spanish-speaking staff – Mezcal bar-restaurant in Florentine is as close as you
can get in Israel to the real Mexican thing.
Unlike so many restaurant
owners who added a few Mexican items to their menus, or pubs that open a bag of
nachos and call it Mexican night, Ziv Erlich, owner and chef of this resto-bar,
insists on expressing his love of the rich and colorful Mexican cuisine by using
only authentic ingredients and cooking methods, not to mention an impressive
collection of 40(!) different tequilas.
Erlich offers his patrons the
colors and flavors of Mexico, where he spent a few memorable years as a child.
Mondays he offers a tasting menu, and as we happened to be there on a Monday
night, we got to taste that menu – and it was good. Very good.
for two (NIS 180) starts with a few “street food” dishes, such as homemade
nachos with a very spicy salsa made from jalapeno peppers and roasted tomatoes
and onions. Served with a couple of Margaritas, they were nothing like the
commercial nachos served elsewhere. We tried to stop ourselves from eating too
many, as we knew more and better food was on the way.
Next, came three
fried jalapeno peppers – a nice side dish that would have gone down well with a
beer if we had one. A dish with two tacos topped with beef stew and salsa and
ready to be rolled, turned out to be the best dish of the whole evening. The
tacos baked on the premises from white corn flour were excellent, and the beef – a mixture of
cheek and shoulder, stewed for hours – was seasoned perfectly and was easy to
bite, as street food should be. I don’t know enough about Mexican food to
describe the seasoning. All I can say is go and taste it for yourself. It’s
The other street food dish was the tostada, topped with
chicken, avocado and beans. Another winner.
With a shot of Mezcal and a
glass of water to quench the fire burning in our palates, we were ready for the
main dishes. The entrecote, seared and sliced, was served with a refreshing
salad of greens, pineapple and jalapeno chili pepper. The meat was very pink in
the middle, just as we like it – not too seasoned and simply good. And the
salad, I thought, embodied the spirit of the place. It was surprising,
fresh, interesting and balanced. I hope to get the recipe for it.
other main dish was very different. I have the feeling that it was added to the
menu because Erlich wanted to teach us something about the varied cuisine of
Mexico. It was a plate of calamari and small shrimp in Diavolo sauce, which was
very rich, maybe too rich for us, but the plain rice served next to it gave it a
touch of home cooking. Is that what they serve in the Yucatan, we asked
ourselves. Maybe not. With these came a salad of cabbage, radishes and
red onions in chipotle sauce – very spicy yet refreshing.
There are two
desserts on the tasting menu, but we tried only the flan. It was good, but not
as exciting as the other dishes.
Erlich says that the food in Mexico is
connected to all aspects of life. “It is connected to religion, culture, art,
sex – everything. It does not come from an aesthetic place but rather from a
spiritual place, and I hope I can show my respect for their culture and express
it in my kitchen.”
Besides all that wonderful food, Mezcal is a very
happy and young place. Functioning as a local bar in the middle of the hip and
fashionable Florentine neighborhood, you may very well settle for a drink at the
bar or outside on the sidewalk. On the other hand, if you do get there, it would
be a shame to miss out on the great food.
Mezcal Not kosher 2 Vital
Street, Tel Aviv (03) 5187925