A vegan feast in Tel Aviv's Florentine

Opa, situated in Tel Aviv's Florentine neighborhood, was established three years ago by twin sisters, serving up a unique vegan cuisine

 Ground up daikon (Japanese radish) with coriander oil at Opa. (photo credit: OHAD PERRY)
Ground up daikon (Japanese radish) with coriander oil at Opa.
(photo credit: OHAD PERRY)

Looking round at the other diners in Opa, I spotted one of Israel’s most famous chefs, with a pretty girl-friend. I found that very reassuring and looked forward to the gourmet meal I and my companion were about to enjoy.

My usual companion, a meat and two veg. type, stayed home and my vegan son took me to Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood where Opa is situated. He is very at home in Tel-Aviv and easily found parking.

The restaurant was established about three years ago by twin sisters, Sharona and Shirel Berger, whose parents are American. They offer a tasting menu of ten courses, which sounds like a lot of food, but it isn’t. Some of the dishes practically needed a magnifying glass to find the food. Nevertheless we left, satisfied, having had an extraordinary gastronomic experience.

Sharona is the front woman while Shirel stayed in the kitchen. She told us that the food is mainly organic and some of the vegetables are grown in their roof-top garden. They try to use all vegetables in their dishes, and even some parts that are usually discarded, like peel and rind.

The first dish to appear was described as cold asparagus soup with berries. The thin green soup was topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries, both basically tart fruits, which tasted fine, although I could not detect any taste of the luxury vegetable in the soup.

 Cuisine at Opa. (credit: DAN KASHAN) Cuisine at Opa. (credit: DAN KASHAN)

Next was a dish of daikon, or Japanese radish, the charred leaves of which had been ground up with home-grown wheat, dressed with coriander oil. This was delicious, though minuscule, and we could have enjoyed another helping.

For dish number three, we got clean plates and flatware. Sharona brought small dishes with fig hearts marinated in ginger, zaatar and onion served with tomato soy sauce, a version of soy but even more piquant.

Next came a star fruit and almond puree served on chopped shallots. It had an interesting flavor, being made with fruit, but still a very savory dish.

To refresh our palates we then tried the spinach sorbet served on a bed of lettuce. The most complimentary thing I can say is that it was a lovely shade of eau de nil (pale green).

The next plate to arrive held a large slice of toasted rosemary bread accompanying an almond cream. The bread was so good one could have eaten a whole loaf, which was, alas, not forthcoming.

The next two dishes were even more esoteric: Jerusalem artichoke topped with roasted chips of the same vegetable, and lion mare mushroom skewers cooked in a reduced raspberry liqueur. Both tasted great and the mushrooms were even rather ‘meaty’. Oh, and of course the ‘skewer’ was actually a twig. (Though not hibiscus, fortunately, as this is poisonous.)

There were two desserts – fermented cabbage ice cream and aged melon skin with almond cream. Quite sweet, refreshing – and who needs chocolate mousse anyway?

The accompanying liquid refreshment was ice-cold water and a glass of Slovakian white wine which was pleasantly dry and versatile enough for all the different tastes. (NIS 55 a glass).

 We left Opa, feeling we had eaten more than enough but not overstuffed. And proud we had made our small contribution to saving the planet.

Opa,Hahalutsim 8,Tel-Aviv.Tel: 052 5838245Open: Sunday – Thurs, 19h – 23.3010 course meal for two: NIS 460The writer was a guest of the restaurant.