Alegria: The secret of good vegan food in Tel Aviv - review

Because parts of Tel Aviv now look like a huge building site, thanks to the light rail which is due to open next year, Alegria is hidden behind vast curtains of plastic sheeting.

 Alegria (photo credit: DAVID DEUTSCH)
Alegria
(photo credit: DAVID DEUTSCH)

“Our motto here is healthy, tasty and vegan,” says Maya, the owner and driving force behind Alegria, one of countless vegan restaurants dotted around Tel Aviv.

“Our motto here is healthy, tasty and vegan.”

Maya

Alegria, named for Maya’s mother who taught her how to cook, is situated at the northern end of Ibn Gvirol Street, making it easily accessible to us Netanya-ites. Because parts of Tel Aviv now look like a huge building site, thanks to the light rail which is due to open next year, Alegria is hidden behind vast curtains of plastic sheeting. But it’s definitely there and my vegan son and I recently enjoyed a meal there, under the watchful eye of Maya and her friend Noa, a former waitress who worked there when it opened in 2013 and later qualified as a nurse.

It was Noa who filled us in on the history of Algeria, explained the food and answered our queries. English is the lingua franca at Alegria, although both Maya and Noa are Israelis born and bred.

The history of Alegria

Alegria started out as a deli, selling sandwiches; slowly more dishes were added, often created by Maya. While we studied the menu, we had a glass of Sangria, a pink, sweet mix of wine, gin and juice, which had an excellent warming effect (NIS 28).

Our starters were “tuna’ salad, made from chickpeas with some seaweed, “labane” from cashew nuts and an egg made from transformed tofu. The “tuna” certainly seemed to have the right texture; the “labane,” made from fermented cashew nuts, was creamy; and the “egg” had the right color, being spiced with turmeric (starters, NIS 28).

 Alegria (credit: DAVID DEUTSCH) Alegria (credit: DAVID DEUTSCH)

Next to appear were three hot dishes – chili beans with cinnamon that were very spicy; lima beans in coconut cream with spinach and tofu, delicious and slightly sweet; and tofu bowls, with “chicken patty,” lemon and chili.

The chili dish is called “chili non carne,” just one of several witticisms that appear on the menu.

Finally, Maya insisted we try two of her most popular dishes, Caesar salad and mixed grill.

The salad was made from fresh, crispy lettuce, with a secret dressing (lemony and very good) and topped with grated “cheese” from fermented cashews. 

“It’s the most popular dish here,” says Maya, which is not surprising as it was really yummy (NIS 58).

The “mixed grill” or “me’orav Yerushalmi” is made from three different kinds of mushrooms and tofu, spiced with cumin and turmeric. It had a slightly smoky flavor and the dressing was mustard and thyme aioli (NIS 64). This came with Asian salad on the side – shredded cabbage with miso and tehina.

“I don’t fry anything; it’s all baked in the oven,” Maya says. “Also, I grind all my own seeds, because for me the secret of good food is in the spices. You don’t need to be a vegan to come here – just enjoy eating good food.”

Alegria165 Ibn Gvirol St.Tel Aviv(03) 613-6964Sun.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.Friday, 9 a.m-5 p.m.Kashrut – Tsohar

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.