8 restaurants not to miss in Israel

Over the past few years, Israel has arrived on the international stage as an up-and-coming culinary destination, though it seems obvious to locals who have long recognized the unique and diverse cuisines that come together across the country.

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November 11, 2013 12:44

Over the past few years, Israel has arrived on the international stage as an up-and-coming culinary destination, though it seems obvious to locals who have long recognized the unique and diverse cuisines that come together across the country.


It’s impossible to give – and impossible to defend – a list of the best restaurants in the country, but here I present eight varied options for dining across Israel that offer something for everyone.


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Including both kosher and non-kosher, haute cuisine and homey fare, classic French dishes and traditional Palestinian food, chic nightlife and family-style dining, Israeli restaurants have something to offer any diner.


From Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, Caesarea and the Golan, innovative and memorable dining abounds – and here are just a few of the restaurants you won’t regret visiting.


Brasserie

It’s rare to find a restaurant open 24/7. And any that are usually serve fast food or reheated dishes. But Brasserie churns out high-quality French cuisine in a cosmopolitan atmosphere all day – and all night.


For breakfast try the brioche or croque madame, for lunch a BLT or beef carpaccio and in the middle of the night - well, anything goes. But a 2 a.m. croissant or cream-cheese and lox sandwich can’t hurt.


Of course dinner is the main attraction, so don’t miss out on beef bourguignon, crab ravioli, duck cassoulet or grilled merguez sausages.


Brasserie offers different specials every night of the week, so make sure to check the menu before you go so you won’t miss your favorite. The food is pricey but not prohibitively so, and each dish is presented with such attention to detail that you feel you get your money’s worth. If you have a sweet tooth, no matter what the time of day, don’t miss the profiteroles, chocolate gateau or crepes suzette.


Chef Etai Sobel follows the French culinary tradition of utilizing all of an ingredient, and his impeccable plating of each dish completes th is unique dining experience.


Not kosher
70 Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv (03) 696-7111


Vino Socca

Hidden in the industrial zone of Herzliya Pituah, Vino Socca is an enchanting and thoughtful kosher dining experience. Located underground, the restaurant is fashioned after 19th-century European salons, with its low lights, soft jazz music and opulent design. Parisian- trained chef Yishai Attias offers an upscale European menu with touches of Mediterranean influence.


Dishes include Jerusalem artichoke cream soup with alioli crostini, fish sashimi with salmon caviar, mini radishes, fresh chili, olives and citrus, lamb osso bucco with potato and green bean cream, and beef fillet with goose liver in a red wine and fig sauce. While at many kosher restaurants the desserts aren’t worth the calories, Vino Socca pastry chef Adir Baum has some offerings you should not miss, including a Belgian chocolate bomb, banana tatin and a selection of petit fours.

Kosher
7 Galgalei Haplada Street, Herzliya Pituah 072-216-3739


Muscat

Nestled in the picturesque Galilee is the memorable Muscat restaurant, housed inside the Mitzpe Hayamim spa and hotel in Rosh Pina.


The restaurant is the brainchild of chef Haim Tibi, a native of nearby Safed, who built the menu around the produce from a local organic farm, and serves mostly organic meat as well. Dishes like the duck liver tortellini, grilled veal sweetbreads, pickled salmon tartare with salmon caviar, and organic goat with white beans and black cabbage ragu come recommended. You can sip on wine made at local Golan wineries while enjoying the view from the restaurant’s wrought iron windows.


Starters run from NIS 37- 52 and mains from NIS 95- 145.

Not kosher
27 Rosh Pina Street, Rosh Pina (04) 699-4555


Jem’s

What should you expect from a microbrewery/ restaurant? And a kosher one at that? Jem’s, a Petah Tikva eatery run by two American immigrants, will exceed all your expectations.


The restaurant is in the same building as the brewing facilities, lending to its industrial, funky vibe (and a tour, if you ask nicely).


On the menu is obviously its six house-brewed beers, including amber ale, dark lager and stout, plus reasonably priced food to match. It offers beer-battered onion rings, homemade sausages, steak, a meatball hero and more.


The menu also includes beer pairing recommendations for several dishes.


For the beer enthusiast or the adventurous tourist, Jem’s is a spot not to miss.

Kosher
15 Hamagshimim Street, Petah Tikva (03) 919-5367


Machneyuda

Machneyuda is one of the most buzzed-about restaurants in Jerusalem, and is famed for having a reservation waitlist a mile long.


Run by celebrity chefs Yossi Elad, Asaf Granit and Uri Navon, the restaurant takes both its name and its ingredients from the neighboring Mahaneh Yehuda open market. Because of that seasonality, the menu changes regularly, but offers Mediterranean food with a wide variety of influences. Expect dishes like polenta with mushrooms and asparagus, deconstructed kebab with tehina yogurt, seafood risotto with sun-dried tomatoes, mussels, and goat cheese and sweetbread kebabs. The menu is divided by price, from below NIS 48 (sashimi and ginger vinaigrette) below NIS 68 (calamari with charred eggplant cream) and NIS 77 and up (pile of crabs with preserved lemons and harissa). There is also a tasting menu for NIS 265 a person.


Not kosher
10 Beit Ya’acov Street, Jerusalem (02) 533-3442


Haj Kahil

The Haj Kahil family has been in the restaurant business for decades, but their eponymous restaurant in Jaffa was opened only a couple of years ago, and has already become a popular destination.


Combining upscale dining with traditional Arab food, Haj Kahil is guided by chef Omar Iluwan, who was selected for the job after passing an “audition” by the owners.


Bringing a taste of Galilee food to the center of Israel, Haj Kahil offers dishes like labane with garlic and walnuts; lamb rib stuffed with rice, ground entrec?te and almonds; spicy halabi kebab served on a bed of roasted tomatoes and topped with pastry dough; or kebabs skewered on cinnamon sticks.


Even if you’re stuffed to the gills after dinner, don’t skip dessert: Try the pistachio malabi or atayef with walnut and cinnamon filling. The prices are reasonable and the portions generous.


Cookbook author Joan Nathan included Haj Kahil on her tour of the best restaurants in Israel in 2010, and renowned pastry chef and blogger David Lebovitz said his 2012 meal there resulted in “the best day of my life.”


Not kosher
18 Raziel Street, Jaffa 057-942-8347


Herbert Samuel

The ultimate in chic Tel Aviv dining, Herbert Samuel allows you to enjoy your meal opposite the sea, either at the funky bar downstairs or next to the glass-enclosed kitchen on the second floor. The Mediterranean has a clear influence on the restaurant’s menu as well, with many fish dishes, including salmon tartare, grouper filet, calamari and even octopus.


Owned by celebrity chef Yonatan Roshfeld, the restaurant changes its menu seasonally to make use of fresh ingredients like in its grilled artichoke hearts, endive, pear and blue cheese salad and tataki-style mushroom and beets. Carnivores have plenty to eat as well, with veal canneloni, lamb chops or spareribs with caramelized pear and shallots.


Dinner is pricey, but hey, you’re paying for the food plus the name, the ambiance and the view.

Not kosher
6 Koifman Street, Tel Aviv (03) 516 6516


Eucalyptus

In an experience unlike any other, chef Moshe Basson has guided the Eucalyptus restaurant to becoming a Jerusalem sensation. With its focus on “biblical cuisine” and Basson’s drive to spotlight ingredients local to the Land of Israel, Eucalyptus has become a hit with locals and tourists alike.


The restaurant is located in Hutzot Hayotzer, Jerusalem’s artist colony, and offers both indoor and outdoor seating.


Starters include “Jacob and Esau’s biblical red lentil stew” and “Hubeza – warm salad prepared in the style of the siege on Jerusalem,” while entrees include “biblical couscous from the days of King Solomon,” “St.


Peter’s fish fillet” and Golan Heights entrecote. Some of the restaurants most acclaimed dishes are the figs stuffed with chicken in a sweet and sour sauce and makluba, a traditional chicken and rice dish with saffron rice, carrots, eggplant, potatoes served “in an impressive ceremony.”


Basson, who has won international culinary awards, is known to adjust the menu seasonally – when Israel was afflicted with locusts he experimented with cooking them – so you’ll never know quite what to expect.

Kosher
14 Hativat Yerushalayim Street, Jerusalem (02) 624-4331


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