416 - The vegan option that spoils you for choice

Today in Tel Aviv there are dozens of good vegan restaurants and the only problem is choosing one.

'416' (photo credit: GALI COHEN)
(photo credit: GALI COHEN)
Perhaps there is no better way to convey the evolution of veganism in Israel in the last 10 years than by comparing my son David’s birthday then and now. Ten years ago, when we wanted to invite him and the rest of the family out for a meal, there was only one choice for anyone who had chosen the vegan lifestyle –  a burger joint where the buns were filled with some unappetizing concoction purporting to be hamburgers. Today in Tel Aviv there are dozens of good vegan restaurants and the only problem is choosing one. We chose 416, considered one of the best, and settled down for an evening of plant-based food.
Sitting at an outside table with a large fan strategically placed to combat the sultry evening air, we first picked a cocktail from the extensive menu. I chose TNT, the name of which suggests that the drink had explosive properties. It was essentially a gin and tonic, tarted up with some fennel and garnished with dried orange and lemon slices and peppercorns (NIS 45) . The birthday boy had a Clockwork Orange (NIS 50), a fruity concoction with gin, Curacao and carrot juice, plus other ingredients too numerous to mention. As the general mood improved throughout the evening I assume the drinks were doing their job.
For a starter we divided a salad between us and this proved a good decision as a huge bowl arrived at the table. It was very fresh and with a strong cumin taste making it slightly spicy (NIS 65).
All the main courses are given meat names like ‘chicken of the woods’ (which wasn’t available) or ‘Moroccan cigars’ and even – help! ‘calamari’. My son picked ‘shwarma’, my husband ‘steak’ and I chose ‘skewers’ but they all had one common denominator – all were made from seitan, which is a high protein food made from wheat gluten.
We were all amazed at how ‘meaty’ the dishes tasted. David’s dish came on baked tortilla with roasted potatoes, and highly flavored (NIS 65). Half the dish was carried home in a paper bag, the portion was so generous.
My partner’s ‘steak’ was nicely browned and came with plenty of mushrooms and onions to add to the flavor (NIS 75).  My skewered ‘meat’ came across as rather rare and was far too much to finish. (NIS 55).
We shared a dessert - caramel coconut cream served in a glass and topped with triangles of white chocolate. Caramel is a flavor I love and this was unaffected by the veganness of the place. It provided a sweet and welcome ending to what had been a very different kind of meal.
Vegan, not kosher (open Shabbat)
Ha’abara Street 16 Tel Aviv. 03 7755066
Open every day 12-11 p.m.