Top Israeli chefs deliver memorable nights on the town

Tel Aviv's Meli Melo and and Cappella restaurants offers an upscale menu by two acclaimed Israeli chefs.

 Cuisine at Meli Melo (photo credit: ASAF KERALA)
Cuisine at Meli Melo
(photo credit: ASAF KERALA)

Two acclaimed Israeli chefs with international reputations – Meir Adoni and Shahaf Shabtay – have been recruited by major players in the country’s night life scene to create menus for two of their high-end bars.

In both places, superior mixology combines with gourmet food to create a complete evening experience.

Meli Melo has heaped a lot on its plate, describing itself as a “culinary dance-bar.” The rooftop bar-restaurant is actually a complex, with two very different sections: an indoor area with open kitchen and chandeliers, and an outdoor area shared with the hotel’s pool. At 11 p.m., the lights dim, the music grows louder, and dancing takes center stage.

Bobo is one of the Brown chain of urban hotels; and Meli Melo (the name means mishmash in French) is a joint venture between Brown and OTH, which manages other restaurant-bars on Brown properties as well.

BOTH hired renowned chef Adoni to create Meli Melo’s food menu, alongside prizewinning mixologist Noam Sharett, who has crafted seven specialty cocktails (NIS 39-62). There is also a two-page wine list, with an adequate number and variety available by the glass – and a particularly substantial selection of champagnes.

 Tapas at Cappella in Tel Aviv (credit: ARIEL EFRON) Tapas at Cappella in Tel Aviv (credit: ARIEL EFRON)

The winter food menu comprises four sections: Bread (NIS 25,35), Sharing Plates (NIS 55-81), Coals (NIS 61-109) and Desserts (NIS 49). There are in effect hardly any vegetarian/vegan options, since all the skewers grilled over the “coals” – even the sole vegetable one (mushrooms) – are marinated in calf stock. Neither pork nor seafood appear anywhere on the menu.

After tasting samples from each category, we can recommend the crusty Spelt Sourdough Bread to accompany the Torn Burrata – a tremendously harmonious symphony of flavors consisting of a bed of shredded burrata cheese topped with confit of Maggi tomatoes, Ortiz anchovies, dried Kalamata olives, smoked eggplant cream, organic olive oil, ground Shatta pepper, basil leaves and lime zest.

It is not easy to choose among the six tempting small skewers listed as Coals, each of which is served on a tortilla with a parsley salad, cashew nuts and white tehina. We enjoyed both the grilled sweetbreads, which melted in the mouth under a crispy crust, and the succulent butcher’s cut steak.

Finally, there are but three desserts, of which we preferred the classic vanilla crème brûlée, with fresh berries and kaffir lime, over the nougat éclair.

CAPPELLA, A new bar affiliated with the Nox Group, shares the 14th floor of the luxury Hagag HaArba’a towers with trendy restaurant Pop & Pope. Its indoor area is dim, with loud music and a variety of high and low seating options at tables as well as the bar. The outdoor area affords a panoramic view of the Tel Aviv skyline and beyond. There is also a separate room for private events.

Cappella shares not only its location with Pop & Pope but also its chef, Shabtay, formerly of the late lamented Nithan Thai. Shabtay, who was concurrently tapped to be the chef for El Al, also oversees a popular restaurant in Shanghai.

The creative force behind Cappella’s cocktails is rising mixology star Ziv Edelstein. There are actually two cocktail menus: the specialty cocktails (NIS 63-68) list, titled The Holy Grail, and the shorter The Exclusive, which features three cocktails made only with Macallan scotch whiskey.

There is also a separate extensive alcohol menu, as well as likely the longest and most detailed wine list of any bar in Israel – although only a tiny percentage of the vintages are available by the glass.

Cappella’s Holy Food menu consists of one page of intermediate-sized dishes made for sharing (NIS 36-92). Most of the dishes are inspired by Asian cuisine, although while there is seafood on the menu, there is no pork.

The standout dishes from chef Shabtay’s menu are the Tuna Sriracha Soy, slices of extremely fresh raw red tuna and chunks of avocado in a piquant sauce spiked with sake; the Cappella Roll, a spring roll of coconut milk-infused rice paper stuffed with yakitori spring chicken, sprouts and carrots, with a dollop of togarashi cream; and Cappella Souvlaki – thin, intermingled slivers of tender pullet and smoked goose breast in a garlic sauce with sumac, purple onion and cucumber.

In addition, among the reasonable number of vegetarian/vegan options on the menu was the noteworthy Beets and Artichokes – roasted beets and artichoke à la Romana on a lake of corn tehina seasoned with fresh basil.

The Holy Sweets desserts menu, by Ofer Ben Natan, contains a grand total of three light desserts (NIS 43-44), served rather inconveniently in jars. All three are light, extremely sweet and deconstructed: the Creamy Cheesecake, for example, is primarily a white cheese mousse, with berries buried on the bottom and crumble sprinkled on top; similarly, the rather good Cappella Millefeuille is a mound of crème pâtissière studded with shards of flaky pastry.

Meli Melo Kitchen Bar by Meir Adoni, @ Bobo Hotel. Not kosher. 42 Yavne Street, Tel Aviv. Tel. 077-230-2563.

Cappella. Not kosher. 28 HaArba’a Street, Tel Aviv. Tel. 077-938-6254.

The writer was a guest of the restaurants.