Food at Mezze 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Eating out as a vegetarian these days is nowhere near as challenging as it used
to be, especially in a bustling, liberal, alternative metropolis like Tel
Aviv. I’ve gotten used to the fact that wherever my friends or family
choose to eat out, I’ll generally be able to find the three or four vegetarian
or vegetarian-friendly items on the menu and pick one. Luckily I’m not lactose
or gluten intolerant, or my choices would be down to one or two at best. Still,
it’s a passable situation. The level of cuisine in Tel Aviv is generally pretty
good, and I enjoy the experience of eating out, so I suck it up.
none of this changes the fact that eating at a vegetarian restaurant is always a
fantastic treat for me. To be able to choose literally anything on the menu is
almost too much choice, but at Mezze it’s the type of overwhelming that I’m
willing to put up with.
Founded by husband and wife team Efrat and Gal
Barzilai seven years ago, Mezze is nestled behind a leafy courtyard on Ahad
Ha’am Street in central Tel Aviv, a hop skip and a jump from Rothschild
Boulevard. The vegetarian couple made an ideological decision not to fill the
menu with meat substitutes such as tofu, seitan and tempe. Instead, Efrat told
us, Mezze aims to make “tasty, interesting food, using what nature gave us.” She
also noted that the kitchen uses as little oil as possible and focuses meals
around fresh vegetables and whole grains with lots of antioxidants.
decided to share a few “mezze” dishes to taste as much of the menu as possible.
The “secret” tehina (NIS 18), which we were told is made from whole sesame seeds
and spiced with silan and a confidential selection of herbs, was one of the best
I’ve ever tasted, and I fancy myself as something of a tehina
connoisseur. The tehina of the week with walnuts and mint was also
impressive; a fresh and interesting take on the classic Mediterranean dip.
Making our way through a stack of warm brown pita, we demolished the black-eyed
peas with tomatoes, garlic and coriander (NIS 20) and the chick peas with
sundried tomatoes (NIS 19). The herb and seed salad, an afterthought suggested
by our waitress, was one of the highlights of the meal – full of flavor but not
drowning in dressing and complementing everything else on the table
Truth be told, the mains were far less interesting than the
openers. I’d recommend sticking to a few of the specialty Mezze plates unless
you’re really starving. We took the black rice with cubes of pumpkin, sun-dried
tomatoes, beans and feta, which was a little bland but easily rectified with
some salt (NIS 46); and the green shakshuka (NIS 44), which was quite heavy on
the pepper but served with tasty fresh whole grain ciabatta, which soaked up a
lot of the kick.
All dishes on the menu are made on the premises, and it
shows. Everything we ate tasted fresh and free of chemicals and
preservatives. I should note that my dinner companion is an enthusiastic meat
eater and generally not a fan of tapas-type meals. Nonetheless, she too liked
preferred the starters over the mains and noted how the variety of flavors
worked together so well that she didn’t bemoan the absence of meat
Sitting with us after we finished our mains and before wowing us
with the cafe’s signature pistachio cake (NIS 30), Efrat told us that the
restaurant is a favourite with Israelis, Anglo olim and tourists. Just last
week, she said, two girls had come straight from the airport to dig into the
famous cake. Served with silan, tehina, halva and sour cream, this unique
dessert is really not to be missed – another reason to stick with the lighter
meals and save some room.
A note for English speakers, though. The
English menu isn’t always up to date, so it’s worth checking with your waiter
before getting settled on something and being disappointed.
doesn’t have official kashrut certification, the fact that the restaurant serves
no meat and isn’t open on Shabbat has made it popular among Tel Aviv’s religious
I’ve heard great things about the breakfast menu and the
business lunch deals, though we didn’t get a chance to taste any of them during
All in all, the food is healthy, fresh and varied; the
atmosphere is relaxed and casual; the service is fast and friendly; the prices
are reasonable; and it’s smack in the middle of Tel Aviv. There will definitely
be a next time at Mezze for me.The writer was a guest of the
Closed on Shabbat. No kashrut certificate