French taste, Russian soul

Tel Aviv’s Baba Yaga offers diners a grand tour of Europe.

Baba Yaga 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Baba Yaga 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘A Tel Avivian restaurant with French taste and a Russian soul,” that’s how managing director Ben Muravchik describes Baba Yaga, a three-year-old European restaurant on Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Street.
Baba Yaga offers visitors a grand tour of the Continent, from Spanish-tinged appetizers through French entrees and rich desserts from Mother Russia. Russia’s influence is particularly palpable at Baba Yaga – popular as it is with tourists from the country and Israelis with roots there – and each of Baba Yaga’s waiters speaks Hebrew, English and Russian.
A large lawn and wooden deck front the restaurant, while the interior recalls the Old World, with white tablecloths, high-backed chairs and a collection of witch dolls behind the fully stocked bar (the place is named for the feared sorceress of Slavic folklore).
Baba Yaga’s menu is all over the map. This is one restaurant that seems to revel in eclecticism. And while prices are far from from cheap, they’re not far removed from other Tel Aviv establishments of similar caliber.
For starters, try the succulent filet of beef tartare, beautifully capped with a poached egg (NIS 54). The ceviche – served, unusually, beneath a radish-and-red onion garden salad – is also worthwhile (NIS 48).
For a main course, the duck breast in prune sauce was subtle and tender, and the filet of sea bream (better known by its Hebrew name “denis”) superb (both are NIS 98).
If room remains for dessert, the tiramisu is one of the finest we’ve tried anywhere in Tel Aviv.
On weekdays Baba Yaga offers Around the World business lunches with a choice of an Italian, French, Russian or Mediterranean-themed three-course meal (NIS 79 to 99).
The premises, both indoors and out, are also available for events.
The lawn can hold up to 100 people and often hosts bar mitzvas and birthday parties.
For its wine list, the restaurant drops its European conceit in favor of local boutique or mid-sized wineries including Castel, Yatir and Chateau Golan (from NIS 88 per bottle or NIS 22 per glass to NIS 360 and up).
Live music is on offer six nights a week – a rotating roster of jazz, Brazilian samba and, when we visited, the smooth French chansons of singer-pianist Arnon Friedman.
Ultimately, however, it’s Baba Yaga’s distinctive and diverse menu that is its most appealing draw.
“These are dishes you can’t find anywhere else in Israel,” says Muravchik in St. Petersburg inflected Hebrew. “We’re gourmet for everyone.”

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Baba Yaga
Not kosher
12 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 516-7305
Open Sunday to Wednesday noon – 11 p.m. Thursday to Saturday noon -midnight.