Brunches: Country Dining and Farm to Table

Urban sophistication combines with rural charm at Claro and Elchanan.

Elhannan (photo credit: AFIK GABBAY)
Elhannan
(photo credit: AFIK GABBAY)
One need look no further than the turnover of eateries in Sarona Market to get an idea of the vagaries of the restaurant business in Tel Aviv. At the southern edge of the compound, however, sits an anchor of the complex, there from the beginning and still going strong: Claro, the popular fine dining restaurant of Chef Ran Shmueli, situated in a beautifully restored, mid-19th century Templer building.
Shmueli’s farm-to-table concept (see the review of June 2017 in these pages) has won him many loyal followers – and none more devoted than those who come for Claro’s weekend brunches on Fridays and Saturdays. These fans have extra cause for celebration during the holiday seasons, when brunch is served during the week as well.
Claro’s dedicated brunch menu extends to the bar’s superb specialty cocktails (NIS 32-36). Both the Claro Collins (citrus gun, herb syrup, fresh lemon juice and soda water) and the Figs Bellini (citron vodka, seasonal fruit syrup, sparkling wine, mint and basil) feature the restaurant’s excellent homemade syrups and are refreshing choices.
It is always tempting to order the restaurant’s famous breakfast tray for two (NIS 178), which is laden with goodies designed to satisfy any hungry couple. The competition comes from eight tantalizing entrées (NIS 58-86) to choose from, as well as from a bountiful market salad topped with a brick of feta cheese drizzled with olive oil (NIS 48).
Our friendly and knowledgeable waitress recommended the mushroom shakshuka: wild mushroom ragout with a sous-vide poached egg, coppa and watercress, plus a side of toasted brioche. Always gluttons for more, we would have liked to see one more egg, and perhaps a bit more of the Italian deli meat; but it is hard to complain after devouring this sublime mélange of tender and flavorful mushrooms, meat and greens in a rich sauce that we mopped up to the very last drop.
A reliable cornerstone of the brunch menu is the steak-and-eggs dish: the steak of the day atop thick, crustless slices of toasted brioche and topped with sunny-side-up eggs. Our succulent sirloin steak with runny egg and soft bread was accompanied by grilled Arabian lettuce and a unique bone-marrow hollandaise sauce, which was exquisite when paired with every component on our plate.
Every visit to Claro merits a trip to the dessert corner, but brunch brings its own fantastic treat as a sweet finale: French toast with fresh fruit – juicy figs, for example, in the summer – vanilla cream and a scoop of sour cream ice cream (NIS 58). While you have to show up by noon in order to order from the brunch menu, this is the one item that can be ordered after 12:30, before the kitchen switches over to lunch, at 1:15.
A rural outpost of gastronomy
It requires a bit of a commitment to drive all the way out to Kibbutz Mishmarot in the northern Sharon for brunch, but your effort will be well rewarded. And you will not be alone in your peregrination. For this out-of-the-way location is the home of Elchanan Bread Culture, which in one short year has become a mecca for lovers of artisan breads.
Elchanan is a bakery at its heart, specializing in crusty, yeasty sourdough; but its breakfast, served daily until 2 p.m. (except Shabbat and holidays) features gourmet food that is on a par with the savory and sweet baked goods that are on proud display.
The setting is as basic as its kibbutz surroundings might suggest: The furnishings consist of wooden tables and chairs or picnic tables, all outdoors. The menu is entirely on a blackboard – and only in Hebrew – but the wait staff will be happy to explain everything in English.
The menu on the day of our visit comprised five items, of which the most popular was clearly “The Butcher” – referring to a substantive wooden butcher’s block loaded with good food designed to be enjoyed by two (NIS 116). The assortment rotates each day, but the appetizing variety that greeted us included fluffy scrambled eggs (with a partial dusting of grated cheese); a salad of coarse-cut vegetables; a cluster of purple grapes; St. Maur cheese; and a large sweet potato with crême fraîche.
The sine qua non, of course, was three huge slices of freshly baked bread: the house sourdough, rye with walnuts, and gluten-free spelt. These were accompanied by three spreads: butter, white cheese and eggplant.
We could not resist another item on the menu: poached eggs on hollandaise sauce, with a mildly spicy cherry tomato coulis (NIS 48). The perfectly cooked eggs floated on a pond of divine hollandaise sauce, perked up with a touch of salsa. I thought the dish needed a few spears of asparagus to be complete, but my companion was in heaven just as it was.
We washed down our delicious food with fresh-squeezed orange and carrot juice. Regrettably, the smoothies we wanted were already sold out.
Dessert understandably presented us with some tough choices. The manager practically insisted we try one of the specialties: the knaffeh croissant (NIS 24), flaky pastry studded with candied pistachio nuts and filled with malabi-inspired crême pâtissière. We also sampled a yummy sticky bun (NIS 16) replete with cinnamon and crunchy praline pecans (well, not quite enough of those) which evoked pleasant memories of faraway lands.
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.

Claro. Not kosher. Ha’arba’a St. 23, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 601-7777.
Elchanan. Kosher (without certification). Kibbutz Mishmarot. Tel. (04) 883-8200.