Seasonal vegan gourmet

The venerable Meshek Barzilay refreshes its food and cocktail menus

Seasonal vegan gourmet (photo credit: Courtesy)
Seasonal vegan gourmet
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For many years, Meshek Barzilay was practically synonymous with vegan cuisine in Tel Aviv, and it has maintained its elite status among vegan restaurants in no small measure because it keeps its menu fresh and inviting. In fact, the commitment of this “rustic organic kitchen” in writing is to offer “vibrant and adventurous vegan cuisine without limitations.”
Fortunately, owner Merav Barzilay has also found the ideal chef to execute the menu. Omri Sibul comes with the right pedigree: His family owns and operates Village Green, arguably Jerusalem’s leading vegetarian restaurant for decades.
With fresh fall produce now in abundance, Meshek Barzilay has introduced new seasonal dishes to celebrate autumn. Food journalists were invited for a sneak preview, beginning with innovative cocktails that feature natural fruit and vegetable juices.
For example, the apple margarita (NIS 34) combines tequila with fresh-squeezed apple and Swiss chard juice, served neat in a glass rimmed with cane sugar and chili, while its gin-based counterpart blended the white spirit with beet juice, Chartreuse liqueur, maple and elderflower (NIS 42), on the rocks and garnished with mint. Both were delicious – like smoothies with a kick.
Our first appetizer was Meshek Barzilay’s proprietary Rapunzel Cracker topped with layered beet, avocado and lima bean cream (NIS 48). While the spreads were all very good - separately and together - it was the cracker itself that stole the show. Made from buckwheat, this gluten-free treat is so outstanding that I verified that it was on sale to take home from the restaurant’s next-door deli.
Next was Fig Carpaccio (NIS 35), thin slices of late summer figs topped with nutritional yeast crumble, lime, chili and mint. The combination of sweet fruit, tangy lime and spicy chili - together with the crunch of the healthy crumble - added up to a terrific interplay of flavors and textures.
When figs are out of season, they will be replaced by papaya, and then by varieties of pears.
There are four new dishes that are roughly the equivalents of main courses, of which we most enjoyed one cooked entrée and one salad.
The Yin Yang (NIS 38) consists of kohlrabi in an almond-based béchamel sauce accompanied by grilled leek in a white wine sauce. The kohlrabi bulb had been hollowed out and cooked until caramelized, like an onion, then filled with the vegan béchamel sauce. This was the sweetest version of the humble vegetable I have ever tasted, which was then elevated by a vegan sauce that was almost as rich as an original made with butter and milk - except this sauce we could and did eat all by itself with a spoon.
One bit of mystery surrounding this dish is the name, since yin and yang usually represents opposites, and there was no contrast here, unless it is in the shapes of the two vegetables. The leek was perfectly satisfactory; it just paled in comparison to the kohlrabi.
The Green Salad (NIS 45) looked very ordinary, although it tasted anything but. It comprised nine different kinds of organic leaves with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds plus a wedge of warm soy haloumi cheese studded with pistachio nuts, all dressed lightly in a pomegranate vinaigrette. According to Barzilay, the exotic leaves cost as much as foie gras, and there were indeed some unusual and bold flavors in the mix, which were an excellent foil to the mellow yet savory “cheese.”
There is a limited international wine list, most available by the glass, complemented by an interesting selection of craft beers and cider, both domestic and imported.
The culmination of our meal was an assortment of three desserts: Lemon Pie (NIS 48), Chocoluz (NIS 45) and Tishraw (NIS 45). Any one of these would be a worthy choice, but the first two deserve special mention.
The lemon dessert was a deconstructed pastry with a mouth-puckering citrus cream sandwiched between a whole wheat cocoa butter wafer and a viscous aquafaba (chickpea liquid) meringue. This will please all those who like their sweets tart and refreshing.
The Chocoluz, meanwhile, was a fudgy chocolate tart topped with hazelnuts. This was as good as any dessert containing dairy. Kosher restaurants would do well to take a page out of the Meshek Barzilay book when looking for a parve dessert, rather than trying to pretend that they can imitate ice cream.
Meshek Barzilay
Vegan, not certified kosher
Ahad Ha’Am St. 6, Tel Aviv
Phone: 03-516-6329
Sunday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.,
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.