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Tapping into Joselito
By YONI COHEN
02/19/2013
Barcelona-born José Ramon runs an authentic Spanish tapas bar in Tel Aviv.
 
Tel Aviv has no shortage of tapas bars, and the majority of them are of a very high standard. With such stiff competition, it’s up to the owners and chefs to stay ahead of the game and offer good quality in order to keep customers coming back. Joselito on Ahad Ha’am has an advantage in that owner José Ramon is a Barcelona native and specifically chose Tel Aviv as a location to open a tapas bar.

Ramon is a Spanish Christian businessman who always had a love of good food and wine. Two years ago he came to Tel Aviv, and it was love at first sight. The rest, as they say, is history. He decided to move to Tel Aviv to realize his dream and open a restaurant. Last summer, along with his Israeli counterpart Barack Ettinger, Ramon opened his beloved tapas bar to bring a taste of Barcelona to Tel Aviv.

I recently visited Joselito with a friend. Upon stepping foot in the unique space, it was clear to see that Ramon had invested a lot of time and effort in making the bar-restaurant an authentic and fun place to be. Funky posters and Barcelona-themed memorabilia cover the walls, creating a small enclave of Catalan coolness in the heart of Tel Aviv’s restaurant and bar scene.

My friend and I arrived in the early evening, so the place was pretty empty and we received the full attention of the friendly and animated staff.

In a somewhat “when in Barcelona” move, my friend started the meal with a glass of sangria. She was not disappointed. I would have joined her if I actually liked sangria. Instead, I went for a glass of Spanish white wine.

With so many interesting options on the menu, we left the difficult task of choosing what to order to our charismatic waiter. After a brief consultation about food preferences, the waiter went back into the kitchen, and we waited patiently for the dishes to start arriving at the table.

We began with a plate of five pinchos (NIS 35), which are bitesized helpings on bread held together with a cocktail stick. The two toppings we enjoyed the most were the smoked artichoke with olives and the pickled sardines.

After getting into the tapas mood with the pinchos, we launched into some of the more complex and larger dishes. Perhaps the most interesting was the seared tuna with pepper vinaigrette and pea popcorn (NIS 52).

The seared fish was tasty enough in its own right, but the crunchy peas sprinkled over the plate added an extra dimension to the taste and texture.

Just when we had started one dish, another plate would arrive at the table until there was hardly any space left. The cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and herb salad (NIS 36) was light and fresh, while the scorched mushrooms, Manchego cheese, oregano vinaigrette, roasted almonds and smoked yogurt (NIS 32) was rich and complex.

While all the above dishes were bursting with flavor, the waiter saved the best for last. After he cleared all the small plates, he placed a unique version of the classic hamburguesa (NIS 38) on the table for us to marvel at. The mix of slow-cooked beef and lamb, pepper sauce, onion and tomato in a bun was a real treat, and it didn't take us too long to polish it off.

At the end of the meal, chef Assaf Blinder made an appearance at our table, and we had the opportunity to thank him personally for a thoroughly enjoyable culinary experience while he talked about his extensive career and his passion for Spanish food.

My friend and I stayed at Joselito for a while after finishing our meal to chat with the waiters and chef. By the time we were ready to leave, the place had filled up with people looking for a late bite or an early drink, depending on which way you look at it. We left secure in the knowledge that if we wanted a little taste of Barcelona, we wouldn’t need to travel to Spain. All we’d have to do was walk down Rothschild Boulevard and make a right into Joselito.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Joselito
Not kosher
39 Ahad Ha’am., Tel Aviv
(03) 744-4855
Sunday to Thursday from 7 p.m. to the last customer. Saturday from 8 p.m




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