Maximum Mexico

If you wondered where one could get good Mexican food in Israel, the answer is Mezcal.

Mexian food 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mexian food 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The beautiful people, the buzzing atmosphere, the Latino music and the Spanish-speaking staff – Mezcal bar-restaurant in Florentine is as close as you can get in Israel to the real Mexican thing.
Unlike so many restaurant owners who added a few Mexican items to their menus, or pubs that open a bag of nachos and call it Mexican night, Ziv Erlich, owner and chef of this resto-bar, insists on expressing his love of the rich and colorful Mexican cuisine by using only authentic ingredients and cooking methods, not to mention an impressive collection of 40(!) different tequilas.
Erlich offers his patrons the colors and flavors of Mexico, where he spent a few memorable years as a child.
On Mondays he offers a tasting menu, and as we happened to be there on a Monday night, we got to taste that menu – and it was good. Very good.
The menu for two (NIS 180) starts with a few “street food” dishes, such as homemade nachos with a very spicy salsa made from jalapeno peppers and roasted tomatoes and onions. Served with a couple of Margaritas, they were nothing like the commercial nachos served elsewhere. We tried to stop ourselves from eating too many, as we knew more and better food was on the way.
Next, came three fried jalapeno peppers – a nice side dish that would have gone down well with a beer if we had one. A dish with two tacos topped with beef stew and salsa and ready to be rolled, turned out to be the best dish of the whole evening. The tacos baked on the premises from white corn flour were excellent, and the beef – a mixture of cheek and shoulder, stewed for hours – was seasoned perfectly and was easy to bite, as street food should be. I don’t know enough about Mexican food to describe the seasoning. All I can say is go and taste it for yourself. It’s delicious.
The other street food dish was the tostada, topped with chicken, avocado and beans. Another winner.
With a shot of Mezcal and a glass of water to quench the fire burning in our palates, we were ready for the main dishes. The entrecote, seared and sliced, was served with a refreshing salad of greens, pineapple and jalapeno chili pepper. The meat was very pink in the middle, just as we like it – not too seasoned and simply good. And the salad, I thought, embodied the spirit of the place. It was surprising, fresh, interesting and balanced. I hope to get the recipe for it.
The other main dish was very different. I have the feeling that it was added to the menu because Erlich wanted to teach us something about the varied cuisine of Mexico. It was a plate of calamari and small shrimp in Diavolo sauce, which was very rich, maybe too rich for us, but the plain rice served next to it gave it a touch of home cooking. Is that what they serve in the Yucatan, we asked ourselves. Maybe not. With these came a salad of cabbage, radishes and red onions in chipotle sauce – very spicy yet refreshing.
There are two desserts on the tasting menu, but we tried only the flan. It was good, but not as exciting as the other dishes.
Erlich says that the food in Mexico is connected to all aspects of life. “It is connected to religion, culture, art, sex – everything. It does not come from an aesthetic place but rather from a spiritual place, and I hope I can show my respect for their culture and express it in my kitchen.”
Besides all that wonderful food, Mezcal is a very happy and young place. Functioning as a local bar in the middle of the hip and fashionable Florentine neighborhood, you may very well settle for a drink at the bar or outside on the sidewalk. On the other hand, if you do get there, it would be a shame to miss out on the great food.
Mezcal Not kosher 2 Vital Street, Tel Aviv (03) 5187925