Top 5: Tel Aviv's most memorable dishes

Food enthusiasts at Taste TLV give their verdict on the best that the Tel Aviv dining scene has to offer.

By JUDITH GOLDSTEIN
February 27, 2012 14:18
Sea Bass Baklava at Hadar Haochel

Sea Bass Baklava at Hadar Haochel 390. (photo credit: Judith S. Goldstein)

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

You know those dishes you order at a restaurant and you simply never forget about? The ones you talk about for days, months or years to come like it’s a culinary legend?

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Some, you never forget because they’re so creative, others because they’re made so perfectly and then there are the ones with such distinct tastes and flavors, they leave an imprint on your palette forever.

With a number of young and creative chefs in the city, there's no shortage of menu items that keep us yearning for more, so here are Taste TLV’s top 5 favorite dishes in the city.

1. Sea Bass Baklava at Hadar Haohel

Sitting between the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Tel Aviv Opera House, Hadar Ha’ochel imbues the artistic nature of the area while honoring Israeli tradition and embracing urban modernity.

Chef Omer Miller has come up with a variety of contemporary dishes that reinvent Middle Eastern classics and he has designed a few treats of his own, the sea bass baklava being one of them.

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Although fish mixed with sweet might not sound appetizing at first, it’s one of those dishes where you discover that Chef Omer Miller can see the compatibility in flavors that would seem discordant to the untrained cook.

The crunchy baked filo dough of baklava comes bursting with soft white fish that releases a salty garlic aroma. The entire delicacy is sprinkled with spiced honey and thyme which brings sensations of sweet, earthy and crunchy texture simultaneously. The sea bass baklava is an inventive and playful dish that you’ll never forget.

Other recommendations: The chopped liver at Hadar Haochel is soft, smooth, creamy and comes with strings of fried onion and homemade pickle, a yummy classic.

Address: Shaul Hamelech 23
Phone: 057-944-3036
Not kosher

2. Steak Tartar Burger at Tapas B’Shuk

Steak Tartar Burger at Tapas B’Shuk

In a bustling corner of the Farmers Market in the Namal (Port) sits a buzzing tapas bar, flowing with champagne and tapas of all shapes and sizes. One of these tapas is an absolute culinary gem called the Tartar Burger - a beef tartar with a side of some great mustard that’s placed on a perfectly toasted bun.

The bun has been immaculately toasted to complement the fresh, high quality meat. The accompanying hardly-a-garnish mustard, boasts a tremendous flavor, providing an ideal partner for the raw, delicate beef. Altogether this dish offers a juxtaposed mouthful of warm, cold, crispy and juicy making it one of those dishes that you keep coming back for more.

Other recommendations: The calamari bruschetta; grilled pieces of calamari served on a toasted home made bread, simple and delicious.

Address: Hangar 12, Tel Aviv Port
Phone number: (03) 716-2757
Not kosher

3. 4 Funghi Pasta at Olivery

4 Funghi Pasta at Olivery

If you’re a mushroom lover, like I am, you don’t want to miss the four funghi pappardelle at Olivery. This is one of the few dishes I’ve tried that truly glorifies the brawny, rugged flavors of mushroom.

Portebello, champignon, porcini, and tartufo mushrooms are blended with slightly sweet, slightly starchy homemade pappardelle and tossed with a luscious cream sauce.

This is one of those dishes that we recommend all the time and hear nothing but raving reviews. The pungent flavors of fresh mushroom is evident in the pasta and satisfies a craving for these fleshy, earth-bound delights. Olivery could serve this dish alone and be successful along with their romantic yet welcoming Italian atmosphere.

Other recommendation:  After a delightful meal with illustrious savory dishes, treat yourself to the banana pizza. Caramelized bananas are placed upon stone baked pizza dough and topped with a heavenly mascarpone vanilla sauce; everything you can possibly want in one bite.

Address: Ibn Gvirol 137
Phone number: (03) 544-6076
Not kosher

4. Gondhi at Kaful

Gondhi at Kaful

Follow your nose to the front entrance of Nachalat Binyamin and you’ll be pleasantly guided by the aromatic scents of exotic cardamom and dried Persian lemon. When humous experts at Kaful extended their menu six months ago to include Persian delights such as gormeh sabzi and kubideh, they charmed diners with a medley of flawless Persian classics, using old family recipes and commemorating Persian culinary tradition.

I’ve had my share of gondhi in my lifetime and the gondhi at Kaful easily ranks as some of the best. Gondhi, a Persian version of  meatballs, is a traditional Jewish Persian dish made with chickpea flavor, ground chicken and a variety of spices. The large balls of gondhi at Kaful are light and airy but loaded with booming flavor, almost taking diners back to the streets of Tehran.

With each bite of gondhi you get a piece of the owner’s family history, to a place where rugs were weaved on street corners and street vendors made lavash (Persian bread) in stone ovens. This is the Iran that Persian Jews remember.

Other recommendations: Ground Persian beef kebab made on a grill, kubideh. The flavors of sumac and turmeric are evident and the juicy meat is grilled exquisitely.

Address: Nachalat Binyamin 2
Phone number: (03) 510-8408
Not kosher

5. Truffle Polenta at Yoetzer Wine Bar

Sometimes it takes only a few bites from a small dish to rev up your taste buds and get them excited for an entire meal, meet the polenta truffle from Yoetzer wine bar.

Once the plate arrives to your table with a little tasting spoon, you can smell the truffle whizzing through the air. The buttery polenta with it’s natural corn flavor is cooked ideally. The poached egg served on top provides an all encompassing salty and savory essence that gently warms and tickles the taste buds.

This small dish packs a big punch, an optimal way to start a fine meal and a dish that you’re likely to be dreaming about for days to come. The experience at Yoetzer cannot be matched, as you sit in the quiet cave by candlelight and feast on the hearty and boasting flavors of this classic restaurant.

Other recommendation: For a classic favorite done with precision, try the boeuf bourguignon. The succulent pieces of meat are so delicate, they fall off the fork and the tender vegetables provide just the right amount of sweetness for the tangy red wine sauce.

Address: Yoezer Ish Habira 2
Phone number: (03) 683-9115
Not kosher

Kassandra Grunewald and Rachel Brender 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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