From gefilte fish to shrimp soup

Fish is the focus for a veteran Tel Aviv establishment.

Shaked, the small restaurant that over the past 40 years has become something of an institution in Tel Aviv, boasts seating both outside and inside. It exudes the wonderful aroma of fresh fish being cooked, and an unpretentious air. "My father started the restaurant in 1964. Then my mother started working here, and I helped them a lot as a boy," recalls owner Haim Sulewicz. "In those days, we offered mostly Eastern European home-cooked food, but about a dozen years ago we decided to focus on fish." So if you want good fish, including good seafood, prepared by Sulewicz and his dedicated staff ("we're all like family"), Shaked is a must. Sulewicz doesn't have to boast, but he does anyway. "All our local fish is fresh," he declares. "Every day we buy fish in Jaffa, twice a day, seven days a week. We have sardines, locus, calamari, whatever you want." Ninety percent of his customers, Sulewicz claims, are regulars, but he does get some tourists ("especially from Russia for some reason") and out-of-towners who love seafood and have heard about the restaurant. We started with a selection from the dozen or so freshly prepared house salads served to everyone (the ikra, made on the premises, was especially good); eggplant baked with tehina (NIS 28), which was a little rich; and a delicious but not overly spiced carpaccio dish called Black Palmida (NIS 88). Among the starters, you may also order gefilte fish (NIS 20), herring (NIS 20), or shrimp soup (NIS 38). The main courses include steak, chicken and schnitzel, but we preferred to stick with the fish and didn't regret it. We ordered the fried barbunia, which were scrumptious, and the sardines (which are recommended only if you've already acquired a liking for a strong fishy taste). The fish dishes, which include trout, denis, musht, bass, buri, swordfish and salmon, range in price from NIS 78 to NIS 88. The sea food, including shrimp and calamari, is a little more expensive, but we sampled the latter and found them to be truly excellent, fresh and refreshingly free from any rubbery taste. Sulewicz recommended we also sample the mussels, and even though we were quite full, we did. Superbly fresh and soft, they are imported from Norway and served in a wonderful cream and tomato sauce. If you like mussels, make sure to order some here. They were so good, we felt as if we were in a top restaurant in Belgium. Our waitress was very friendly and warm. We had white wine and bottled water to accompany the satisfying meal, which we rounded off with coffee, tea, chocolates and a wonderful Creme Bavaria. Shaked also offers a business lunch for NIS 79, which includes a starter, main course and dessert. Shaked, 90 Hahashmonaim St., Tel Aviv; tel (03) 561-0546; open Sunday through Friday from 8 a.m. to midnight and Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.; not kosher.