Magyar meals

One of the few authentic Hungarian restaurants in Tel Aviv, Tulip serves more than goulash and paprika.

Hungarian food (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hungarian food
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When I was invited to eat at Tulip restaurant in Tel Aviv, there was only one person I thought of taking with me, my dad. With Tulip being one of the very few authentic Hungarian restaurants in Tel Aviv, I knew that my father, who was born in an area of Romania with a strong, Hungarian influence, would be able to help me make the right food choices.
Before visiting Tulip all I really knew of Hungarian cuisine was goulash and paprika, but after a lesson from the Hungarian-born owner, as well as my father, I am now a proud expert. Paprika and goulash did feature heavily on the menu but there was also a whole host of other delicacies that surprised me, in a good way.
The restaurant itself is very unassuming and the decor is simple and somewhat homely. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, which meant the service was very good and each course came out very quickly.
For starters I was encouraged to order blintzes, a food that I actually forgot was also synonymous with Hungarian food until I was reminded while looking at the menu. The large portion of creamy spinach blintzes (NIS 42) was served with yellow cheese, and I was very impressed. The spinach was flavored with garlic, and the creamy texture of the filling worked well with the outer layer of the blintz.
My dad could not resist and went for his old favorite, goulash (NIS 45). Maybe this hot and very heavy dish was not the best choice for an exceptionally hot summer night in Tel Aviv in a restaurant where the air conditioning was not working, but it was worth it. A lot of the Hungarian cuisine is actually very simple wholesome food. This goulash was a great mix of potatoes and meat, with that all important paprika taste finishing it off.
Carrying on from the simple “worker’s food,” as I like to call it, for my main course I ordered something apparently very traditional that consisted of sliced potato, boiled egg, yellow cheese and sour cream (NIS 49). It sounds very basic, and it was, but the combination just worked, and it was surprisingly tasty. A far cry from so many dishes at trendy restaurants in Tel Aviv that try too hard to be over-complicated, this one was a rare treat and was also very filling.
My dad, who could not contain his excitement that I was enjoying the food that he grew up on so much, ordered another very traditional meal of stuffed cabbage (NIS 55). The large portion consisted of minced meat mixed with rice, stuffed inside cabbage with a paprika-inspired sauce. My only complaint would be that the sauce was a little too salty but aside from that it was more than edible.
I remember as a child when I used to come and visit Tel Aviv on holiday I used to love sampling the delicacies at Judith’s, a Hungarian bakery/coffee shop that has since closed down. With my love of all things sweet only growing as I have gotten older, I was more than overjoyed when we were told that the chef at Tulip used to produce all those cakes and sweet treats that I loved so much while he was the chef at Judith’s.
We were lucky enough to try a few of the sweet specialties on offer. There was one that I was not too sure of at the beginning but was assured by my dad, and then subsequently by the very insistent owner, that it was a Hungarian favorite that could not be missed. The chestnut puree served with cream (NIS 35) had a little too much alcohol in it for me but once I got passed that initial taste I enjoyed the chestnuts, which are specially sourced by the restaurant for being the closest to ones that are found in Hungary.
I personally enjoyed the sweet cheese dumplings served with fruit sauce and yogurt (NIS 32) the most. The texture was like nothing else I had ever tried, and after I got over the initial shock when I was told that it was made out of potato, I really started to enjoy it.
I am very proud of my Hungarian heritage now that I know they can make such sweet delicacies from the most boring and tasteless staple. The sweet cheese blintzes (NIS 29) were also very tasty and fully recommended.
Set two minutes from the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard on the slightly quieter parallel street, Yehuda HaLevi, Tulip is a great place for a slightly more intimate experience with some good, honest food. Even if you don’t go with a Hungarian food expert like I did, I am sure the helpful and attentive staff will help in making the right decision when faced with the extensive, varied menu.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Not kosher
52 Yehuda HaLevi, Tel Aviv.
Open everyday from 9 a.m. till midnight
(03) 566-8444