Bana: Creative vegan food that's fantastic for all - review

What we both liked was the fact that at Bana the food wasn’t trying to be something it’s not – no faux hamburgers or steak. It just presents vegetables in an endless variety of ways.

 Bana (photo credit: David Winitz)
(photo credit: David Winitz)

Neveh Sha’anan in South Tel-Aviv is a mixed neighborhood, founded in 1923 and currently inhabited by many immigrant workers. Parts of it are rather dreary, but the occasional sighting of a classic Bauhaus building brightens it up. Some have been renovated, others have fallen into disrepair and really need the municipality to restore them to their former glory.

Bana is a popular vegan restaurant situated in the heart of the area. My driver and dining companion was my son David, who has been vegan for well over a decade, so for him it’s definitely not a passing fad.

My usual companion, being an enthusiastic carnivore, was more than happy to give up his place at my side.

He missed out because the food at Bana was really good – fresh, creative and original. The chef produced some really delicious food, all of it plant-based.

What we both liked was the fact that at Bana the food wasn’t trying to be something it’s not – no faux hamburgers or steak. It just presents vegetables in an endless variety of ways. Clearly, to be a good vegan chef you have to have a creative streak.

 Bana (credit: Ben Shetrit) Bana (credit: Ben Shetrit)

We sat in a covered patio with earthy gray floor tiles and ivy struggling up the netting outside the window. It was a beautiful crisp but cold Tel-Aviv day and the hot roasted cauliflower soup with which we began our meal was just right. (NIS 48).

Beautifully presented in attractive gray ceramic bowls, and topped with a swirl of olive oil and coarse ground pepper, it was a great starter. The fresh crispy sourdough bread only added to the pleasure.

The menu, in English and Hebrew, listed a mind-boggling selection of vegan food, so we told our charming waitress, Thea, that we would have whatever the chef wanted us to try.

He sent out several platters of food, all totally different and encompassing an extraordinary variety of vegetables.

There was a dish of roasted vegetables, consisting of green beans, fresh broccoli, potatoes and onion in a mustard vinaigrette sauce, which gave the veggies quite a kick. (NIS 58).

Next we were served a dish of roasted Portobello mushrooms cut into chunks and served on a faintly sweet cream of chestnuts garnished with walnuts. (NIS 64). The strong flavors of each component made for a delicious whole.

Yet another dish to arrive was a mix of roasted and fresh tomatoes on a bed of creamy tehina, with quinoa (pronounced ‘kin-wa’) on the side, served with a blob of green sauce, which Thea explained was like Yemenite sechug, but with added herbs to modify some of the sharpness, making it more like a pesto.(NIS 52).

Finally, there was another main course, cooked Lima beans with avocado and red peppers. (NIS 58). At this point I plucked up some courage and asked for salt, as none is put on the table, and hoped my request wouldn’t be taken as an insult by the chef.

Several desserts are listed and I chose the lemon pie, which turned out to be something between a cream and a mousse on a thin biscuit base – very lemony and sufficiently sweet. (NIS 44)

David had a “Snickers,” a sticky and mildly sweet bar with a peanut flavor and a topping of smooth thick chocolate. (NIS 18).

We ended this inspiring meal with good cappuccinos made with rice milk, the least flavored of all the substitute milks.

If you are into vegan food or just feel like trying something different, Bana is the place.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

BanaNachman St. 36,Tel-Aviv.For more details, contact: 03 619 2192Open every day, 11 a.m.–11 p.m.