Take me back to Safta's kitchen

Take me back to Saftas

Sender is an unassuming small establishment within walking distance of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. The dishes on offer are Jewish Ashkenazi favorites like homemade gefilte fish, stuffed derma also known as kishke (NIS 35) and on Fridays, hamin (NIS 24/30 with meat NIS 47), a traditional vat of slow-cooked beans and beef. For me, the experience brought back memories of my maternal grandmother's cooking. Safta made everything from scratch with the freshest ingredients. Even the fish brought from the supermarket where she worked, only stopped flip-flopping minutes before she returned home. I recall clear chicken broth, schnitzel and a bubbly beverage from Saba's soda siphon. I was not a fan of the sting on my tongue until much later in life so here at Sender it was in his honor that I enjoyed two glasses of petel pop with the food. At my Safta's table, complimentary words like "geschmack" resounded and there were barely bones left on the plate. In addition to the regular patrons eating in and taking out, this establishment has two praiseworthy walls: one of photos of satiated patrons, the other of glowing reviews mostly from Hebrew publications. My Hawaiian shirt-clad dining partner and I nibbled on pickled cabbage and cukes as the salads were brought to our table: fresh finely-chopped Israeli salad, roasted peppers and egg salad, plus. The chopped liver with grilled onions and chopped egg was delectable. Everything was made to order and we didn't wait for the gefilte fish (NIS 20) to cool off before sampling it, enjoying it just the same. Then we devoured fried kreplach filled with beef, onion and a touch of liver to taste as Chef Zami Shriber related the recipe. For the meaty part of the meal, we had goulash, a plate of braised beef and korkavanim. After a year of restaurant reviewing, I can assure you that I am not an adventurous eater. Animal organs, while considered delicacies in some circles, are not my first choice of dish but I inadvertently end up trying them because I often don't know the word on the menu or recognize the shapes on the plate. I have not been disappointed with the tenderness or taste of said dishes. At Sender, the korkavanim (chicken gizzards) in the goulash sauce were quite good. And for our favorite side we had kishke (NIS 20); chicken shmaltz (fat) never tasted so good. In my Safta's home, the shallow bowl of soup, which I often filled with bright yellow crunchy soup nuts, was served at the conclusion of the meal. As in my childhood, there was no soup mix used at Sender and for each of us, one kreplach and one matza ball (NIS 20/25) made it just right. A main dish with sides is NIS 47 and on its own is NIS 35. A half serving including side dishes is NIS 35 and without is NIS 22. Sender, Levinsky 54, Open Sun.-Thurs. for lunch and take out, 12noon-4:30 p.m., Fridays in the winter, 12noon-2:30 p.m., (03) 537-1872 or (03) 688-3344. Kosher. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.