Feast from the East

Not a fan of spicy food? Tandoori doesn’t mind.

Hailing from New Delhi, Israel’s Indian cuisine queen Reena Pushkarna is the founder of the Tandoori restaurant chain. She learned her cooking skills on the high seas, much like the spice traders of old, as the wife of Vinod Pushkarna, a captain in the Merchant Marines.
“During my nine years at sea,” Pushkarna explains, “I traveled extensively to distant lands and exotic ports all over the world.
More often than not, I would wind up in the kitchen trading recipes with the chef of each ship.”
The food at the Tel Aviv Tandoori is world-class Indian, as good as any I’ve ever eaten in Israel or abroad. And the prices are very reasonable. A full-course meal runs between NIS 80 and NIS 100 per person.
The restaurant offers delectable dishes to its customers every day.
A variety of sauces, exotic spices and other specialized ingredients are used in the preparation of these tangy dishes. Some of the most popular items on the menu include chicken tikka masala; boneless breast of chicken marinated in herbs; and mint and palak paneer.
We had an enormous array of food brought to our table, starting with a version of traditional Indian naan bread called kima-naan, filled with minced meat. It was excellent.
A centerpiece of white fish, white chicken and red chicken followed. The tikka and kastoori were surrounded by four Indian dips: a savory brown dal maknee made of black lentils; malai kosta; a chicken gilaz; and a vegetable pilaf. Although the sauces all looked rather similar, they tasted very different. One was sweet, one was savory, and one was hot enough to burn your mouth unless you washed it down with a half-gallon of Gamla red wine – which we did happily.
Tandoori has locations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Herzliya and Eilat. In addition to the restaurants, the Pushkarnas own an ethnic food brand which, in partnership with supermarket giant Super Sal, is sold in more than 170 outlets in Israel.
Moving further into the food production business, the Pushkarnas opened a 15,000 square foot food processing plant in the Galilee, which produces and exports frozen ethnic food.
Although Reena Pushkarna says that prime ministers, presidents and diplomats are frequent visitors to Tandoori, perhaps the most famous visitors to the restaurant were Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, who met for peace talks there in the early 1990s. Maybe Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas will also have a meal there one day, and Middle East talks can heat up over curry once again.
Tandoori is located at Rehov Zamenhoff 2, Tel Aviv. Not kosher. Open daily from 12:30-3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Tel: (03) 629- 6185. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.