(photo credit: Courtesy)
Growing up in Kfar Saba, my father used to tell us marvelous stories of the lone workers' restaurant located in the industrial area. He never took me there - thus I have never eaten at the place - but he would regale me with the wonders of cheap, filling and delicious food accompanied with friendly, quick and hospitable service.
Upon entering Tchernikofski 6, it seemed the furthest thing in comparison to the workers' establishment depicted by my dad so long ago. I was not greeted with plastic chairs and tables, huge pots on gas burners nor a plump, middle aged woman with a dirty apron and perpetual smile behind a counter waiting to serve another hungry steel worker. Instead, I found an elegantly designed restaurant with a fashionable interior complete with an up-scale bar and Dalia Maron, the place's chic owner and manager whose aim it is to keep her bistro as the modern version of that workers' restaurant.
Indeed, for the last five years, the restaurant served home-cooked food with an emphasis on healthy ingredients and reasonable prices for the lunchtime crowd. However, two months ago, the restaurant moved across the street (which explains the numerical discrepancy between name and address). Maron redesigned the restaurant's look and introduced a new culinary vision - down-home cooking at lunch and a gourmet flair at night with little pretension.
"I aspire to create a place where people can come in their jeans and enjoy good, simple food with a twist, at reasonable prices," Maron says, adding that the bistro's chef is also her husband Eyal. Together they maintain the neighborhood feel of the place, both during the day and at night. Of course, there are both regular customers and those coming from afar. On this particular night, a group of Swiss tourists were expressing their great excitement to be back, having eaten at the previous location during a visit last year, both amongst themselves and to Maron, who says she can spot a customer's desires and recommend the exact dishes that they will enjoy most. She even creates special dishes for her regulars with special needs diets.
The menu itself changes daily says Maron, adding, "we go to the market and search for the ingredients ourselves." She notes the emphasis placed on quality ingredients, food preparation without short cuts, i.e. soup powder and preservatives, and organic products.
I'm a vegetarian so I took a carnivorous friend with me. Immediately I was impressed by the array of vegetarian dishes - including caprese bruschetta, lasagna and the ever popular Roquefort salad - and was excited to order.
I began with gazpacho soup, a classic dish for the coming spring. My friend with a calamari pan fried with lemon and ginger (NIS 36). He said the calamari were juicy and tender, dubbing the dish brilliant. He was less enthusiastic about the plate of fresh sardines, fried and accompanied with aioli saying that, "they taste like sardines." There was no time to question his logic upon the arrival of a plate of mussels served in white wine with tomatoes (NIS 38). It was his first time eating mussels, which he found to be delicious, and proceeded to suck the meat and sauce directly from the shell - a sure sign of enjoyment.
In the meantime, I continued with a beet and baby greens salad (NIS 36). It was incredibly delicious. The Saint mor cheese, fresh dates and light seasoning left the baby greens crunchy but not sandy as they often are - and a perfect accompaniment to the beets.
For the main course we both had pasta. For me the homemade Pappardelle with mushrooms and for him the Fettuccini with entrecote meat balls (NIS 68). The Pappardelle was great, especially since I love restaurants that go beyond the single vegetarian option of ravioli in cream sauce. The Fettuccini looked great but my friend thought he could make it at home. The dish was sans twist in his opinion.
Dessert was chosen by Maron who opined, "You don't strike me as the chocolate types." We were served panna cotta with strawberry sauce and a pear tart. Both were made by Maron herself and both were delicious, much better than chocolate.
Tchernikofski 6 also offers catering and has a food market every Friday with options such as goulash (NIS 25) and cholent (NIS 42/900g). For Pessah there are special, take-home seder dishes and even the option to order an entire, fixed-price seder meal.
Tchernikofski 6 should probably receive a bit more attention but its small street location helps to maintain that wonderful, neighborhood feel. So, put on your favorite jeans and enjoy.
Tchernikofski 6 Bistro, 5 Tchernikofski Street, Tel Aviv (03) 620-8729
Open from noon each day until 6 p.m. Sunday, midnight Monday through Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday. Not kosher.