A Tel Aviv culinary tour takes to the streets this spring

The 12 Points tour is scheduled to run for six to eight weeks, coinciding in part with the Eurovision competition being held in Israel in May.

12 Points (photo credit: Courtesy)
12 Points
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Gault & Millau, the French publisher of international culinary guidebooks has organized a traveling tasting tour featuring dishes prepared by 12 of Tel Aviv’s top chefs. The tours will commence on May 6, 2019, shortly before the release of the second edition of the Gault & Millau Israel guide. 
The 12 Points tour is scheduled to run for six to eight weeks, coinciding in part with the Eurovision competition being held in Israel in May. In fact, the name “12 Points” was inspired by the famous 12 points awarded by each country when voting for its favorite song of another country.
The tour was designed by David Kichka, chief culinary consultant for Gault & Millau Israel, and will be led by specially trained guides in three languages: Hebrew, English and, by special request, French. The Tel Aviv tour is not kosher, although a kosher tour of Jerusalem is in the exploratory stages.
According to Kichka, the 12 stops on the tour include both upscale restaurants and stands serving street food. Moreover, the dishes reflect not only Israeli food but also ethnic cuisines popular among locals. Most, but not all, of the eateries have been recommended in the Gault & Millau Israel guide. 
The tour commences at the beginning of Rothschild Boulevard, in front of beautiful mosaics celebrating the city that are too infrequently seen, since they were moved away from the old city hall. Conveniently, the starting point is right at the border of two important neighborhoods known for their concentrations of good restaurants: Neve Tzedek and Lev Tel Aviv. 
The tour also covers two additional geographical areas of focus: Carmel Market and Lewinsky. A full 25% of the tour is devoted to Asian food, testament to its popularity; in fact, Kichka points out, Israel ranks #3 or #4 in the world in the number of sushi restaurants per capita. Interestingly, Israel ranks even higher – perhaps #1 – in number of vegans per capita, but not a single snack on the tour falls in that category.
Prior to the tour’s launch, journalists were invited to a preview. Among the highlights (in no particular order):
• Aria is one of the upscale restaurants on the tour. Chef Guy Gamzo’s seared coquille Saint Jacques in brown butter, on almond cream, may just be the best scallop I have tasted in Israel.
• Alena, at the luxury Norman boutique hotel, is another fine dining experience. Chef Barak Aharoni, known for his contemporary Israeli cuisine, delighted us with his charred eggplant tortellini in oregano butter with dried za’atar.
• More Israeli treats are on offer in Shuk HaCarmel. Chef Idan Fainburg presides over Panda Pita, where we wolfed down the roasted organic eggplant in a “cloud” pita, with tehina, beet chutney and egg salad. 
• The next stop in the open-air market was Bourekas TLV, where chef Jonathan Heller serves up the classic flaky turnovers filled with unexpected gourmet ingredients, such as shrimp with goat cheese and chopped onions with chard.
• The Asian cuisines represented are Thai, Japanese and Chinese. Kab Kem, the sister restaurant of chef Yariv Malili’s Thai House, served a stellar snack that dazzled with its complexity: Mian – sea bass and cashews with fresh herbs, roasted coconut and caramelized onion, all wrapped in iceberg lettuce and pandan leaves moistened with a sweet and spicy tamarind sauce.
• In the Lewinsky Market, the tour visits Yom Tov Delicatessen, where the Levy family – materfamilias and sons – creates delicacies that are as unforgettable as they are unusual, such as pickled hibiscus flower stuffed with creamy sheep’s cheese, and Turkish Caciocavallo cheese with homemade eggplant jam.
• Afterward, we quenched our thirst just a few doors down the street at Cafe Lewinsky, where drinks wizard Beny Braga – a.k.a. the “gazoz guru” – mixes refreshing probiotic beverages made with fermented fruit syrups.
Other restaurants on the full tour include China Club, Ouzeria, Bar à Vin and Ya Pan, with a final stop called Point of View: enjoying the Mediterranean sunset while sipping liqueur from Julius craft distillers. 
The tours, which cost NIS 280 per person, will take place on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tour participants – a minimum of eight and maximum of 14 – will be transported in a distinctive yellow van. Registration for the tour is at https://eng.ortra.com/tourism/incoming-tourism/
The writer was a guest of the tour.
12 Points Tour
Not kosher
Gault & Millau/Ortra
Tel. (058) 702-0983