(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ha’achim (The Brothers) restaurant, owned and operated by Assaf and Yotam Doktor, is a casual eatery located in central Tel Aviv. Established just one year ago, the chefs are still experimenting with new and exciting tastes on a menu that serves traditional local dishes, adapted and modernized to cater to a young Tel Aviv crowd. The establishment offers seating both inside and out and has a vibrant yet laid-back atmosphere where one could easily wile away several hours.
Ha’achim is best known for its meat skewers and wide array of mezze. But as a fairly seasoned customer, this time I went to check out the restaurant’s new pita menu, launched in recent weeks. I was particularly curious to see if this new addition to the menu could give chef Eyal Shani’s popular pita place Hamiznon, just across the road, a run for its money.
While pita dishes were the theme of the evening, I couldn’t pass on the mezze for starters, which is a personal highlight of a meal at Ha’achim. The spread varies between visits, while there are some classics that consistently feature. Our waitress brought us sabich salad (eggplant, egg, potato), red and white cabbage salads, tehina, tabouli, eggplant mousse, cauliflower salad, olives, schug (hot sauce), tomato dip, Turkish salad and root vegetable salad. All this comes accompanied by pita bread, of course.
The mezze are served in small bowls on a refill basis, which the waitresses are very attentive to. While my dining companion couldn’t get enough of the tehina and eggplant mousse, I remained a devoted fan of the red cabbage salad, which is given an interesting twist with Doktors’ use of truffle oil. Diners can opt to enjoy these mezzes as a starter (NIS 24) or as a main dish (NIS 36). If you are hungry, they are highly recommended as a tasty and fun time-filler while you wait for your main course, as long as you have enough self-restraint not to get too carried away; leave some space for the rest of your meal.
Between bites, we sipped on cold homemade lemongrass and mint ice tea, served in a jug on a refill basis (NIS 13).
After we had satisfied ourselves with the starters, our waitress brought us several pita-based dishes. The most memorable was pita filled with fried artichoke, labane, garlic, lettuce and cucumber – a true festival for the taste buds, with its complimentary assortment of creamy cheese, delicious artichoke and crunchy fresh vegetables (NIS 27).
Next, we sampled an open roasted pita dish topped with veal and minced lamb, tomatoes, herbs, tehina and sumac (NIS 33). This was my least favorite dish of the bunch, as I found the taste of the lamb overwhelming.
To provide us with some relief from the carb overload, our obliging waitress served us a delicious haloumi cheese salad (NIS 42). This was comprised of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, spring onion and radish with chunks of fried haloumi. Just to ensure that we didn’t entirely stray off the path, the salad was also topped with toasted za’tar-flavored pita croutons.
Then we dug into a spicy veal sausage and lamb filled pita, also packed with tomatoes, spring onion, parsley and a fresh horseradish sauce, as a well as a thin layer of mashed potatoes (NIS 32). While I was suspicious of the latter ingredient, it actually proved to be an interesting addition, and the spiciness of the sausages contributed a delightful kick.
Although we were by now almost bursting at the seams, my sweet tooth wouldn’t allow me to pass on dessert, and our waitress presented us with a cup of malabi (NIS 24). While neither my companion nor I are usually fans of this Middle Eastern milk pudding, a taste of the Ha’achim version persuaded us that sometimes malabi is indeed worth trying. This one was simply heavenly – light and strangely refreshing following such a heavy meal. The waitress also brought us Turkish coffee, which comes on the house at the end of any meal there.
So does the Ha’achim pita menu rival that of Hamiznon? My companion gave a flat-out no, keen to return to Ha’achim – but for the flagship skewers and mezze rather than for the pita menu. On my part, I was particularly impressed by the artichoke pita but agree that while the pitot make a nice addition to their menu, they won’t become the restaurant’s signature dishes. Nor do they need to.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Ha’achim (Not kosher)
12 Ibn Gvirol, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 691-7171