TA Centennial: Ye olde feasting grounds

Art festivals, musical performances and dance shows aside. The time has come for Tel Aviv to celebrate its centennial with food.

One hundred Years of Culinary Tel Aviv is a reflection of the city's 100 years of culture. So very many books, plays, celebrities and politicians all emerged from the city's cafes and restaurants. Discussions, writings, decisions and ideas were all born alongside unforgettable dishes. In celebration of this gastronomic culture, some of Tel Aviv's leading restaurants of today pay tribute to the culinary establishments of old. For example, the great patisserie Eidelson 10 - 252 Rehov Ben Yehuda; (03) 544-4154 - honors Cassit, the mythological cafe where Arik Einstein, Dan Ben Amotz, Uri Zohar and many other cultural icons used to sit and shoot the breeze for hours. The gourmet restaurant Deca - 10 Rehov Hatasia; (03) 562-9900 - pays tribute to Olimpia, which brought the Balkan kitchen to Israel back in the '50s and was the chomping grounds for Israel's elite. Leah Rabin dined there regularly. Daniel Zach, executive chef at the Carmela Bistro - 46 Rehov Hatavor; (03) 516-1417 - is excited about the upcoming project. His restaurant is paying tribute to Hatarvad Havarod (The Pink Spatula), a restaurant opened by Tzachi Bookshester in the '80s. "I always loved that place," says Zach. "I was a loyal customer. So much so that when they closed down and gave all their loyal customers, me included, a poster of all the past Hatarvad menus, all of which were drawn by famous artists. When we created the special menu for this upcoming event we used the style of their menus. I still have that poster in my restaurant kitchen." Zach notes that like Carmela, Hatarvad became an establishment more for its unique food as opposed to the people who dined there. "Hatarvad was here before anything else," he explains," When I finished culinary school in the '80s, it was the only restaurant in Israel that offered a local answer to French gourmet cuisine. The country lacked important ingredients back then, but Tzachi had suppliers for crazy ingredients you can't even get today, like snails and frog legs. He tried dishes in his restaurant, like mallard breast in chocolate and chili, that I'd be scared to try in my own restaurant." That mallard breast is now one of the Carmela tribute entrees, where dishes from days gone by include Pandora Box- an almond roll covered in Marzipan with Drambuie injected into it. "Tzachi insisted that we inject the Drambuie at the table with a real syringe," Zach reveals. And there's also Bookshester's legendary halva parfait. "It's a dish that today sounds trivial," says Zach, "but he invented it. It's a fusion dish before fusion was a common word in every kitchen. A French dessert with Israeli Halva. Simple and brilliant." A tasting menu of Hatarvad's dishes is available for NIS 300 per couple. The event takes place from June 10 to 20. Other participating restaurants are: Catit - 4 Heichal Hatarbut; (03) 510-7001 - paying tribute to Aharoni's Tapuach Hazahav; Noi Positive Food - 59 Sderot Chen; (03) 524-0642 - to Balzam café, which used only natural ingredients in the '30s; Rokach 73 - (03) 744-8844 - to Arnold and their exquisite eggplant dishes; Marie Antoinette - 7 Rehov Habarzel; (03)648-2999 - to Kasba; Martha - 26 Ibn Gvirol; (03) 696-6843 - to Galina Café; and Arlekino ice cream parlor - 39 Ben Gurion; (03)522-4212 - to the legendary Vitman. None are kosher.