Upstairs, downstairs

Café Europa brings the classic flavor of Europe to Tel Aviv’s trendy strip.

Café Europa (photo credit: Courtesy)
Café Europa
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Café Europa has been open for just over a year and has already become a hot spot on Tel Aviv’s trendy Rothschild Boulevard. This place is terrific, with delicious and imaginative food in both smaller tapas-type portions and full dinner-size meals. The downstairs dining area is open plan. Upstairs there is a beautiful bar (which has been christened “East Europe”) with a balcony that overlooks the boulevard. The restaurant was already full of customers when we arrived.
Maoz Alonin and Itay Hargil, the chefs at Café Europa, have created a new menu especially for East Europe that includes warming comfort food, with an innovative, personal interpretation of classic Eastern European cuisine. This includes blini (Russian pancake) served with caviar and crème fraiche, fresh forest mushrooms sautéed in white wine and vinegar, pickled veal tongue served with horseradish aioli and house pickles, pilmeni (beef-stuffed dumplings in chicken bouillon) and more.
Our waitress Maya was a delight and made us feel at ease.
She took her time explaining the details of the dishes and drinks.
We began our meal with Café Europa’s succulent filet of beef tartare. Next up were the blini, which were delicious. They tasted a little like undercooked pancakes in fact, but the texture didn’t detract from their quality (as it would for actual pancakes).
The side of refreshing sour cream and pieces of smoked salmon complemented the caviar and blinis very well.
This was followed by grilled calamari with matbucha labane.
In between, we were treated to a variety of special East Europe cocktails, which included Babushka and a Molotov cocktail.
My dining partner, who is quite the expert on cocktails, gleefully proclaimed that these were some of the best she had tasted.
Overall, the assortment of starters was fabulous. Every dish we tasted was prepared with incredible attention to detail, so our expectations for the main course rose accordingly.
We began with the Café Europa burger. The burger was perfectly cooked to order, seasoned well and served on a tasty homemade bun. Our meal continued with the hanger steak.
Slow cooked to delicate perfection, the steak was tender and beautifully presented. It simply melted in the mouth. This was followed by lamb shawarma.
The secret spices didn’t hide the flavor of the meat itself; and though the lamb was sliced thin, it was anything but dry. This was shawarma the way shawarma is supposed to be.
After a little bit of a breather, we tried a small portion of the tortellini. The pasta was fresh and heavenly and cooked to al dente perfection.
The sweet offerings did not match the level of the previous two courses. But they were good and provided the gratifying sugar fix required to end the meal. We tried the strawberry frangipane crumble and the tiramisu.
Café Europa is a classic after-hours place to go. The crowd always changes, and the alcohol keeps flowing. I have the distinct feeling that Café Europa, with its delightful atmosphere, good food and drink, will be around for a long time to come.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Cafe Europa
(Not kosher)
9 Rothschild Blvd., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 525-9987