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Happy hour
By JONATHAN GILAD
28/04/2014
The Social Club is one of the most cheerful places in Tel Aviv.
 
Walk into The Social Club bistro-bar on any given evening, and you are guaranteed to walk out much happier a few hours later – and not only because you’ve had a few. Serving what other places don’t seem to be able to achieve – really great food in a topnotch bar – The Social Club succeeds where so many others have failed.

We went in at around 9 p.m. and the place was packed with the kind of people you’d expect to find in any top bar in one of the world’s largest cities such as New York or London.

Celebrating its fourth anniversary this year, this Tel Aviv hot spot provides its patrons with many different seating options. You can choose to sit quietly outside in a semi-closed courtyard and enjoy a relaxed romantic dinner, savoring the food rather than the sexy atmosphere, or find a table inside on the first floor or on the balcony. Or, like we did, you can sit at the bar, undoubtedly the best seat in the house, where all the action is.

The barmen are all professionals. While mixing one of the place’s fantastic cocktails, they spare no tricks giving onlookers the whole spiel, complete with the hand movements and smooth talk. But don’t order before you listen to their suggestions. The very experienced barmen will find the drink you never knew you wanted. And if they get it wrong, they will try again. But let me assure you, they will not get it wrong.

As much fun as the drink mixing is, the star of the show is the food. Chef Michael Gratofsky dreams up new specials every week. And if you let the waiters make their recommendations, you won’t be sorry.

When they opened the place, the four partners – Mosh Budnik, Amit Lavid, Ori Raz and Yuval Barashi – dreamt of an American diner. But the chef thought otherwise. He wanted to steer the kitchen towards what he calls modern bistro cuisine. They listened to him and, judging by the success the place has enjoyed, they made the right decision.

The decision went beyond the food and dictated the décor, as well as the music. I must confess that I shy away from noisy places, and the idea of spending a long evening in a loud bar was not very appealing to me. But I was in for a pleasant surprise. The music, played by a very talented DJ, was perfect and added to the experience, while not interfering with conversation – well, almost. It is a bar, after all.

The modern bistro concept extends, of course, to the portion size and the way the food is presented. We started our meal with a few of the small dishes, as they are called there: mozzarella and tomatoes (NIS 38); grilled artichokes (NIS 39); and seared tuna bruschetta (NIS 36). They were all great accompaniments to our first in a rather long line of cocktails.

We then moved on to heartier dishes, such as the tasty hand-cut pasta with beef fillet and grilled vegetables (NIS 84) and a selection of raw fish, char grilled vegetables and yogurt (NIS 78). My companion had to have the local burger and was very happy with a 250-gram well-prepared burger served with all the traditional trimmings, as well as grilled vegetables in an excellent bun (NIS 65).

There are plenty of vegetable dishes on the menu, such as the open flame eggplant.

“Mediterranean style,” a favorite with those tasting local food for the first time (and there were many tourists sitting there that evening), and the obligatory roasted beets with pecorino cheese, which seems to be the flavor of the year at Tel Aviv restaurants these days.

We really didn’t feel like having dessert but wanted instead to invest our calories in the drinks. But those who insist on having something sweet will find all the usual suspects, such as the tempting chocolate cake with ice cream.

Is The Social Club a bar that serves excellent food or a restaurant with an awesome bar? That decision is up to you. We decided to return there soon, if only for a quick drink with something on the side.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

The Social Club
Not kosher
45 Rothschild Blvd., Tel Aviv
(03) 560-1114
www.socialclub.co.il
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