Successful harvest

Located between the picturesque neighbourhood Neve Tzedek and the 'city' of Tel Aviv, Assif is a small bistro that's always fun to come back to

Assif bistro dish  (photo credit: courtesy)
Assif bistro dish
(photo credit: courtesy)
I will start at the end – I loved Assif so much I went back there a couple times after my initial visit for this review. It’s exactly my kind of place, the sort I would be looking for when visiting other cities around the world, and yet love to have around the corner from my home.
At sundown, the commercial district near Tel Aviv’s stock exchange changes into a local hangout area, complete with bars and small restaurants. Assif, located right there, offers visitors a menu that changes occasionally, depending on seasonal ingredients and the chef’s own whims.
True to its name (assif means harvest in Hebrew), the restaurant’s menu focuses on fresh, local produce, enriched with European and Asian strokes. Assif’s owner and chef, Einav Berman, keeps up a slow-food gastronomic ideology, (a global, grassroots movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment) while staying very close to her Israeli origins.
Although not a large space, attention to detail gives an illusion of comfort. Berman’s guiding hand is felt throughout the restaurant. Modern art adorns the walls, white tablecloths and flower bouquets give a somewhat festive atmosphere and the open kitchen allows eyes to wonder around. Outside seating is perfect when humidity permits.
This summer, Berman created a menu that offers light and tasty dishes combining cooked and raw ingredients, centered around seasonal produce such as summer squash, chard, lime, nectarines, cherries and more.
After enjoying the selection of breads baked on the premises, we started with a salad of nectarines, tomatoes and basil with mozzarella, prosciutto and basil oil (NIS 54), and pressed sea fish, with radish, hyssop, green onions, chili and avocado on toasted potato bread (NIS 56). Both excellent, tasty and very pretty dishes.

We were interested in the eggplant tortellini with goat cheese (NIS 52) but it was gone by the time we got to the restaurant.
Although the smaller dishes all looked very attractive we decided to move on to the more serious ones. My companion chose a butcher’s cut with okra, asparagus bean, and green bean with beef stock and fresh corn polenta (NIS 115), which was very French in style and excellent for meat lovers.
I took what I thought was the best dish of the whole meal - lamb chops with okra, tomatoes confit, capers, olives and potatoes puree (NIS 135), which was rich and very well prepared.
Berman’s personal (and yes, oh so very feminine) touch can be felt in everything. From the light-hand in seasoning and great cooking skill that allows every ingredient to shine, to the way the menu flows from lighter and smaller dishes to the relatively heartier ones, and is not divided into starters and main dishes, thus making it easier for diners to simply pick their fancy regardless of its location on the menu.
The staff members (all, so we were told, art students), are not only courteous and English-speaking, they are also extremely friendly. Not only was our lovely waitress fun to talk to, she also demonstrated extensive knowledge of the entire menu, ingredients and cooking methods, and had a surprising understanding of the wine list, including her very own personal taste and convictions. We loved her.
The small but sumptuous selection of light desserts is not to be overlooked. Despite our inclination to ignore it, out waitress convinced us to try the Wild Crème Schnitt (NIS 39), a flaky, pastry dessert filled with mascarpone cheese, slightly sweetened. It was a very good – light, not too sweet and very satisfying. Just the right thing to end a romantic dinner for two.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher
18 Lilenblaum St, Tel Aviv,
(03) 516-5198
Open Sun.-Fri.,
(Closed on Saturday)