Don’t let this one get away

Though the name may be a little hard to pronounce, the Shtsupak fish restaurant in Tel Aviv is easy on the palate.

Fish dinner 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Fish dinner 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With all the trendier eateries that surround it, Shtsupak, at the northern tip of Tel Aviv’s Ben-Yehuda Street, seems a little out of place with its unpretentious exterior, blue metal chairs and no-frills interior. Although it would not be my choice of places to sit if I was passing by, I was happy to be invited to this fish restaurant, which offers good honest food at reasonable prices.
While the service was excellent throughout, one factor really stood out – the speed. Even before we had a chance to sit down, our table was miraculously filled with a huge loaf of bread and an array of fresh salads, many of which had a fish theme. The friendly young waitress was more than attentive throughout and did a great job of explaining all the different types of fish on offer.
We started with a bottle of Gamla Chardonnay (NIS 85) that was light and easy to drink and went well with all the dips and salads on our table. While the salads were no different from the ones you get at any restaurant of this type, they were fresh and tasty. My personal favorite was the grilled eggplant, closely followed by the salted fish.
With no formal menus, we relied on our conscientious waitress to explain the starters, of which there were about seven. As my friend and I don’t eat seafood, we were limited in our options, but there was still enough choice for us to deliberate for a while about what to order. In the end we shared the white fish ceviche (NIS 38) and the carpaccio (NIS 36). The ceviche was full of flavor, with the strong taste of the garlic coming through and pieces of mango to add a little sweetness. The fish was of good quality, and all the extra ingredients, which were beautifully presented, complemented each other.
The carpaccio, which was also made from white fish, was not so much to my liking. My friend really enjoyed it and said she thought the fish was very flavorful. I thought there was too much raw fish on one plate without anything else to complement it. In contrast to beef carpaccio, this fish version was sliced relatively thickly, and I didn’t enjoy the texture. It was, however, well seasoned, and I could tell that much thought had been put into finding flavors that would complement the fish.
There is no escaping the fish in the restaurant. Even though they do offer a limited selection of meat, our waitress only told us about the fish options. I went for the fried red snapper, which is priced by weight (NIS 27 per 100 grams). The whole fish came deep-fried in batter after it had been cut into about seven strips. I found the fish quite hard to eat this way, but it was tender and full of flavor.
My friend had the grilled sea bass (NIS 95), which in my opinion was much tastier. And the fact that it had not been deep fried was more appealing to me. Again, it was a whole fish that had not been filleted. It was a very simple dish that played on the natural great taste of the fish to shine through.
By this stage we were pretty full, so we shared a dessert. The crème bavaroise (NIS 28) was pretty standard but had a good texture, and the chocolate syrup on top added a little something special.
Don’t let the slightly tired exterior put you off at Shtsupak. The nofrills attitude allows the food to take center stage, which is refreshing in a city where “concepts” and image tend to be given more importance in a restaurant than what is actually served. With good, unpretentious food and great, honest service, Shtsupak ticks all the right boxes for an enjoyable dining experience.
The writer was guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher
256 Ben-Yehuda, Tel Aviv
(03) 544-1973
Open Sunday to Saturday from noon until midnight.