Valentine's Day for two

Tel Aviv eateries are marking the imported holiday of love.

valentines 88 (photo credit: )
valentines 88
(photo credit: )
When I arrived in Israel seven years ago, I thought that I had left behind such frivolous events as Valentine's Day. And for a few years I was correct. But then, not long afterwards, it began to pop up in the most likely of places - the mall. Strolling along the linoleum tiled hallway that is Main Street Israel there it was: crappy teddy bears manufactured by small children in China, Mylar balloons with clichés in Hebrew and misspelled English and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates with the same unfortunate sentiments printed on the packaging. But at least now some interesting gastronomical ways are availble for observing the time honored tradition of publicly celebrating your relationship one day per year. Go, Tel Aviv! This Thursday, the 14th of course, grab your partner and gorge yourselves in honor of, well, yourselves. But unlike those passions of impulsivity that light your fire and mine, plan ahead and make a reservation. If Indian is your and your special friend's thing then Indira (7 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, [03] 695-4437) is where you want to be. For the fixed price of NIS 299 per couple you have a choice of two soups to start - lentil, tomato or corn, two first courses served with naan to continue - including Mondale pikori (veggie balls covered in chickpea flour, sesame seeds and spices) and Tandoori chicken wings in smoked sauce, a main course for two - mixed grill with five types of grilled and smoked meats served on a sizzling platter with your choice of sides, and a dessert of homemade ice creams and parfaits. Of course, dinner is completed with a glass of champagne each. For some it's Asian cuisine that gets them going. Lucky that Choya (2 Kreminisky St, [03] 562-6665) has put together a long weekend, running through Saturday night, of a fixed menu for NIS 250 per couple and tables adorned with scented candles and red flower petals. First course is a choice of two from such options as tom yan kun ramen, mulligatawny soup and veggie egg roll. There are two main courses for two to choose from, either crispy duck or a 40-piece sushi combination platter. Dessert should keep your palate well excited with dungo rice balls filled with Belgian chocolate and served on coconut ice cream and cubes of ice Brule in maple syrup served with sugared pecans all alongside a couple glasses of sparkling wine cocktails. There are few cuisines inherently more romantic than Italian and, when served along Tel Aviv's Rothchild Boulevard, your chance for romance is all but ensured. Allora (60 Rothchild Boulevard, [03] 566-5655) has a NIS 259 fixed menu with some interesting casual surprises. First course offerings, all of which are served with the house focaccia, include roasted eggplant with tomato and mussels in an anise rose sauce. The main course for the evening can be anything from a heart-shaped pizza with various options for toppings to veal ossobuco or sea bream fillet to a selection of pastas in various sauces. Of course there is dessert for two and the meal is to be accompanied by two glasses of champagne and finished with two glasses of digestif. Food is all well and good but when it gets the love juices flowing it can lead to interesting situations. Bar Giora (4 Bar Giora Street, (3) 620-4880) has taken this into consideration and is presenting an evening of safe romance. Upon entrance to the quaint enclosed garden setting, each diner will receive a condom and a rose. The food is just as enticing. For NIS 66 per couple you will dine on a selection of tapas such as shrimps in coconut milk, liver pate on crostini with cherry tomatoes and beer-battered mutton, stuffed champignon mushrooms and, you guessed it, a bottle of champagne. Tchernikofski 6 (5 Tchernikofski Street, (03) 620-8729) is about one of the most intimate settings in the city and a solid bistro all-around where you and your date can pop in for a bit of finger food or a whole meal and leave feeling saucy either way. For NIS 69 per diner you both will select four tapas from an impressive array including cured sardines on bruschetta with saffron aioli, calamari in red wine, endive and Roquefort salad, mushroom polenta and much more to be served alongside a glass of champagne each. However, if you choose to stay on there are a number of main course options from mushroom ravioli with truffles to beef bourguignon with root vegetables. If there is room left for dessert and if you are smart about it there will be, top it all off with either the chocolate fondue or pavlova with patisserie whipped cream and strawberries. There are those folks who just like to stay at home and eat meat. Homeburger (137 Ibn Gvirol Street, [03] 544-8282) has an answer for you with its loveburger meal for two. With as little effort as one phone call you and your honey can dine on a 300-gram fresh ground entrecote heart-shaped hamburger accompanied with a bottle of champagne and finished with chocolate covered strawberries. The NIS 139 per couple also includes a single rose. If it is alcohol that sets your love-bone off, then the 24-hour Nona Coffee Bar (44 Ibn Gvirol Street, [03] 696-6365) has concocted a selection of red-themed cocktails, all for NIS 35 each. Beginning at midnight, Wednesday, choose from the PassioNona (Stoli, schnapps, midori and sour), the classic cosmo, a woo woo, the Fransisco or the always embarrassing to order "sex on the beach" - or drink them all. When it comes to dining in a romantic atmosphere probably the best address in the White City is Nana (1 Ahad Ha'am Street, (03) 516-1915). With one of the most relaxing porch/deck atmospheres and set in the enchanting neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, this is the ultimate Valentine's Day setting. Chef Peter Shikloshi has an offering that should excite your mouth and ready it for a night full of kissing. First courses include such wonders as a salmon tartar choux pastry in cider sauce and sesame oil for NIS 46 and pan-seared cinta with fennel salad, bell pepper and sprouts in passion fruit vinaigrette for NIS 47. Main course specials include goose breast and leg in a rosemary and garlic marinade with a grape sauce for NIS 84 and beef fillet medallions in an oyster, ginger and Coquille Saint-Jacques sauce for NIS 124. Dessert should blow your mind with the caramel brioche with spiced strawberries and vanilla ice cream along with the cocktail special of a strawberry and passion fruit mojito. If this Valentine's Day is your first, you might not want to take any chances and bring your potential love to Zepra (96 Yigal Alon, [03] 624-0044) where all the special dishes are based on traditional aphrodisiac ingredients. This means a selection that features rock oysters with rolls of fillet in pear vinaigrette with wasabi and sesame seeds for NIS 50, monk fish on lemon grass with a raw can sugar glaze for NIS 98, and a winter citrus ensemble with sugar clouds, ginger and champagne for NIS 33. And, on the subject of the bubbly, for NIS 38 you can have yourself a glass of it with strawberries within. Best to order two of those. And, finally, there is just dessert. Shaked Creamery (1st entrance at the Tel Aviv Port, (03) 676-0438) has two special flavors you would be amiss to miss - gianduja chocolate ice cream with raspberries and champagne sorbet with strawberries. Yeah, that sounds alright.