Judith S. Goldstein is the Co-Founder of TasteTLV. TasteTLV is the ultimate culinary guide for dining in Tel Aviv.

In a Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens famously wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and 2011 certainly captured the essence of that quote in the hearts and minds of many around the world. It was a dynamic year filled with sweeping political changes across the Middle East, global economic woes, a fairytale royal wedding, a major earthquake in Japan, and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.

It was a year filled with change, triumph, defeat, and hope. In our very own country, we witnessed the largest political and social protests since the birth of our nation. We were confronted daily with daunting realities as protesters occupied the streets in tents and demanded more social and economic justice. We continued to watch Tel Aviv grow and develop both artistically and culturally.

As the world seemed to dizzily swirl around us, we witnessed people’s determination to create, imagine, and express; both individuals and cultures continued to thrive, blossom, and mature. Nothing illustrated this better than the expression of art through food and cuisine in Tel Aviv, and 2011 was certainly a notable year for the culinary scene. Propelled by an entrepreneurial spirit, restaurants sprouted up in every corner of the city.

Ambitious and talented chefs put their best foot forward to open restaurants that provide new and creative experiences to their guests and introduce global cuisine with a unique Israeli perspective. TasteTLV is excited and proud to highlight a collection of 2011’s best new restaurants. In this spirit, we hope that the food culture continues to flourish and satiate our curious palates in 2012.

Mizlala

When Meir Adoni announced plans to open a new restaurant with a more affordable menu, excitement ran rampant amongst all the foodies in the country. While the luxurious food acts as a focal point of the restaurant, Mizlala also offers a special touch. Meir Adoni infuses his flamboyant personality and zest for life into every element of the restaurant.

The lively, energetic, and festive atmosphere creates a generous dose of fun; this place emanates a feeling of celebration, excitement, beauty, and lust in one moment. The assortment of interesting dishes, including veal brains, salmon ceviche, and lamb-stuffed calamari, for instance, are rich, succulent and playful. The stimulating and edgy night begins quickly with Meir’s clever element of the shot and bite. The menu overflows with intriguing dishes, such as the steak and eggs--a thick cut of steak topped with bacon and smothered in a whiskey maple syrup sauce.

The crowd is boisterous and lively as everyone absorbs the energy in the room. The restaurant’s flair is provided by the juxtaposition of simple nude furniture and huge glass windows that expose the neighborhood’s heavily graffitied walls. Loud music and a frivolous buzz in the air provide a hedonistic atmosphere that’s simply about indulgence and physical pleasures.

Food at MizlalaUnique touch: In a city that can seem like a grind, Mizlala has injected a dose of gratification, for this is a place where you can have your cake and eat it too...and feel really good about it.

57 Nahalat Binyamin
(03) 566-5505
Open from noon till 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. till midnight.



The Bun


As much as Chef Shei Kitches attempts to remain coy about his solid background in three of the four 3 Michelin starred restaurants in New York City, it doesn’t take very long after you try his food for the cat to come out of the bag. From the moment you sink your teeth into one of Shei and Ayal’s mouthwatering dishes and taste the precision of flavor, it’s apparent that these are seasoned chefs who have been schooled in accurate French techniques.

The pedestrian Asian-inspired dishes; steamed buns, barbeque beef brisket, classic Udon soup, and green papaya salad, among others, effortlessly infuse a mix of international flavors with an Asian influence as its foundation. The classics that remain a staple on the menu are simply one culinary delight after the other. The mini steamed buns come with tofu, beef brisket, or hamburger, and you can mix and match at your will. For a classic and comforting Udon soup, a taste of The Bun’s will magically transports guests to Tokyo.

The Kitches brothers also exercise their creativity with nightly specials that have featured the likes of chicken liver pate with sake gelee, caramelized onion served with a wasabi crositini. It’s genuinely a treat to visit in the evening and discover a new, innovative dish made by some of the most talented chefs in the city. The linear, edgy, and masculine interior reflects an urban yet casual atmosphere. Edison light bulbs gleam from the exposed walls and glisten against the exposed beams in the ceiling.

There is only bar seating and across the heavy wooden bar only a napkin and a set of chopsticks are placed before your food arrives. The interior reflects the personality of the brothers and you sense that you’ve stepped into their lion’s den. With a culinary roar, The Bun will quickly grab and eternally capture your attention and loyalty.

Food at The BunUnique touch: Shei and Ayal have changed the culinary landscape of Tel Aviv by proving that you can have gourmet dishes with an informal presentation for a price that the masses can afford. Shei and Ayal’s pan-Asian-inspired dishes are innovative and lush, but they are presented in a fashion that is approachable to anyone.

18 Hillel Hazaken
(03) 604-4725


Gedera 26


Chef Amir Kronberg took years to understand the restaurant industry and sharpen his skills before opening Gedera 26 nine months ago. His methodical approach and abiding patience is reflective through his cuisine and the effusive energy throughout his establishment. Chef Kronberg designed a simple menu with many dishes familiar to the Israeli palate; kubeh soup, chicken livers with rice, and hraime. Yet unlike other restaurants offering the same fare, Kronberg approaches the food with uncommon restraint.

Instead of drowning his dishes in spices and sauces, Kronberg selects the most prominent and important flavors and pronounces them using the freshest ingredients and establishing precise techniques. It's with this approach that dishes that may seem simple taste complex and robust. In every dish that he produces, each flavor is prominent and clean, yet there are sprigs of creativity that make the experience unique and special.

The specials are based on interesting and superb finds that Amir scouted in the shuk that day, and they exemplify his knack for quick thinking and playful cooking. I like to say that Gedera 26 is like opening a little box of jewels; it’s glowing, understated, refined, and majestic. There is a sense that the past effortlessly fuses with the present, with a mixture of exposed brick walls dating back to the early 1900s, pictures of Kronberg’s grandparents embellishing the walls, and benches and chairs made out of recycled furniture and window panes. There is a light and airy flow melding with charm and homey comfort.

Food at Gedera 26Unique Touch: Gedera 26 brings something new to the table by breaking down the common belief that Middle Eastern food needs to be heavy and overly flavored. With his Swedish and Iraqi background, he signifies that there are ways to seamlessly blend East and West, to provide intense food with a clean edge, and to marry the worlds of passion and prudence.

26 Gedera Street
(03) 510-0164
Open Monday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. till the last customer, Friday from 10:00 a.m. till 15:00 p.m. Closed Sunday.

Bakery 29

It’s uncommon for someone to leave a successful and familiar life behind to begin a whole new life based on passion and altruism, yet when Netta Korin left her prolific career on Wall Street to make Aliyah and open a bakery that gives 100% of its profits to IMPACT, she beat all the odds and created a true gem in the city. IMPACT is a humble organization that provides college scholarships to low-income combat soldiers, and Bakery 29 is as ethereal as its cause.

There is not one element at Bakery 29 that Korin overlooked. She was a part of the entire process, from restoring the old window panes with her own two hands, to consulting with the designers at every turn, and creating an impeccable menu with chef Yaron Azulai and pastry chef Ika Dirblat. The assortment of baked goods, daily pizzas, sandwiches and dips are made to perfection. I honestly can’t say that there is one thing on the menu that’s not absolutely delicious.

The oatmeal chocolate cookies, that inspired the notion of opening a bakery in the first place, are the bakery's staple and an instant marker for the immaculate treats. The Parmesan-chive scone, one of my personal favorites, is a savory pillow of tangy Parmesan with subtle sweet chives.

Bakery 29Bakery 29 is a crafty blend of restoration and sophistication. The original ninety year old windows and door have been restored by Netta’s brilliant will and vision and the tiles in the bathroom are the original Gluska tiles that survived through years of neglect. There is a Zen-like energy that permeates through the bakery and Netta’s magical spirit lives in each nail, stroke of paint, piece of tile, and every crevice of the bakery.

Unique Touch: By building a place with a soulful with philanthropic intentions, Korin has inspired a city to understand and appreciate the value of community and charity. This inspirational institution provides hope and good vibes in a sometimes rough world. With a visit to Bakery 29 you can literally feel the goodness, but better yet, you can taste the goodness too, one cookie at a time.


29 Ahad Ha’am

(03) 560-2020
Open Sunday to Thursday from 7:30 a.m. till 10:00 p.m., Friday from 8:00 a.m. till one hour before sundown.

Olivery

When Olivery popped up on Ibn Gvirol, it would be determined how it would fare in the stiff competition amongst the city’s other Italian establishments. All it took was one bite of their fresh homemade pasta and it was known that Olivery would make a name for itself in Tel Aviv.

The pastas, all made from scratch, rival some of the best pasta eateries in Italy itself and the accompanying ingredients only heighten each dish. The pasta funghi, a pappardelle noodle with a four mushrooms sauce, is a dish that celebrates the rough, earthy tones of mushroom with the starchy sweet undertones of pasta. Complete with fresh shavings of Parmesan, this fearless dish pushes flavors to the limit.

If pizza is your fetish, you are in luck as Olivery uses a brick oven to melt the fresh toppings into the perfect soft but crusty dough. The asparagus pizza is one of many items unique to Olivery. The pizza and salads come in a small or large, therefore it’s easy to mix and match without having to pick only one thing on the menu. The stream of lasagna, pizza, soup, specials keep regular diners engaged and interested.

For a sweet sensation at the end of the meal, the panacotta made with fresh vanilla beans and crimson cherry sauce, is nothing short of superb. The high ceilings are reminiscent of the casual Italian countryside with a dash of elegance. The imported wine bottles and beer on tab displays Olivery’s dedication to serving pure Italian cuisine.

Food at the OliveryUnique Touch: What makes Olivery unique is that it provides an experience that is true to Italian cuisine from start to finish. With its decadent food and commitment to flavor, Olivery represents an ode to beautifully crafted cuisine.

137 Ibn Gvirol Street
(03) 544-6076


Cafe XOHO


The theme behind the TV show “Cheers” is that “everyone knows your name.” This familiar and comforting idea made a weekly visit to “Cheers” something soothing and fun, which is the same exact feeling you get from the moment you step into Cafe XOHO.

Reminiscent of coffee shops in coffee-cultured cities like Seattle, Cafe XOHO is a home away from home. The food at XOHO is inventive and playful. The staff of cooks, spearheaded by Chef Zoe, constantly experiment with fun baked goods and interesting specials, such as beer bread with rosemary, pecans and raisons or the camparai muffins.

The regular items on the menu kindle little reminders of coffee shops in the States, such as the New York Bagel and cream cheese. Other items profess a dedication to the beautiful array of fresh Israeli produce. The Antipasti Sandwich, one of the most popular dishes, brings together an assortment of grilled vegetables, red wine onion jam, basil pesto, and goat cheese. Ultimately, this dish showcases cafe modesty with imaginative expression.

The cheerful atmosphere is complete with brightly painted walls, and the cafe is adorned with funky sculptures and works of art by local artists.

Food at Cafe XOHOUnique Touch: The staff makes it a point to get to know their customers and provide welcoming and attentive service. Cafe XOHO has a very loyal following and it’s a common occurrence for guests and the staff to chit-chat like old friends and for patrons to strike up conversations with another. Whether you are relaxing with a hot apple cider or biting into a freshly baked croissant oozing with chocolate, it does not take very long to feel like you are part of the family at Cafe XOHO.

18 Mapu Street

072-249-5497
Open Monday to Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday from 8:00 a.m. till - 4:00 p.m and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. till 10:00 p.m.

Taste TLV staff contributed to this article

Judith studied Middle Eastern Politics at the University of California in Santa Barbara. She has worked in the hospitality and culinary industry for 10 years.

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