This will be a Tishrei holiday season unlike any other in history but at least we can still enjoy familiar festive dishes created by professional chefs, from the comfort and security of our own homes.
SULICA BY CHEF AVI BITTON
Chef Avi Bitton has built his reputation as the creative genius behind upscale restaurants in trendy north Tel Aviv, most recently Cafe Popular. Even when working in those kitchens, the energetic Bitton ran a catering company (Mazal Talle) and Sulica, an impressive delicatessen offering an astonishing range of hot and cold dishes.
In fact, the demand for Sulica’s takeaway has been such that it has expanded to three outlets: two in Ramat Aviv, and one in Herzliya Pituah. All this, of course, before the holiday crush, which reached its peak just before Rosh Hashanah. Moreover, because of the pandemic and lockdown, we are entering an extended peak period for delivery, not least because restaurants are closed.
The extensive Sulica holiday (and beyond) menu comprises four main categories: Salads, First Courses, Main Courses and Side Dishes. In addition, there are two types of condiments – spreads, and signature pickles and relishes – and three different types of baked goods (pareve cakes, dairy cakes and cookies, and bakery items for the “morning after”).
Not surprisingly, with so much to choose from, one may select from both Ashkenazi and Sephardi (i.e., Mizrahi) favorites. I have alway trusted Chef Avi, so I let him choose what I was to experience. He led me off with chicken soup, which may not be a novelty, but it was welcome, since who wants to cook soup for hours in the heat of this never-ending summer?
This version was a clear consommé, but it came with both kreplach and kneidlach (matza balls), packed separately. The latter were also my favorite kind: small and rather dense, with their own unique flavor. Yet I did miss the vegetables, so I guess I will be simmering carrots, onion and parsley on my stove after all.
I believe my next dish was from the “first course” category, but it was substantial enough to be a main course: large fishballs, in an unexpectedly fiery tomato sauce. Once I got used to the heat, it was hard to stop after one helping, and that alone completed my meal.
I could not resist choosing something on my own, and I selected an assortment of fritters (a.k.a. croquettes): Veggie, made with zucchini, carrot and fresh herbs; Sweet Potato, which is gluten-free; Bulgarian Leek (not made with Bulgarian cheese); and Banatage – Tunisian meat and beef patties. All are positively addictive.
Three branches, with the main one is at Einstein St. 7, Tel Aviv.
For the past eight years, restaurateurs Oded and Limor Shaharabani have been operation Reihot VeTe’amim, a massive takeaway and delivery service specializing in Jewish comfort food drawn from both Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions.
The Shaharabanis own two popular Japanese restaurants in Tel Aviv: TYO and Kitto Katto, both of which have been reviewed in these pages. Although Chef Yama’s restaurants are not kosher, Reihot VeTe-amim, which operates from headquarters in Ramat Hasharon’s industrial district, most definitely is reminiscent of home cooking, and is certainly wholesome. Interestingly, the logo for the place is a tractor, and one could be forgiven for thinking that the premises houses a vegetable wholesaler: The elevator from the free underground parking lot to the store is in constant use by employees ferrying pallets of carrots, onions, potatoes and other fresh produce.
The wares at Reihot VeTe’amim are on full display for all to see: long wooden table after table loaded from end to end with huge bowls of fresh salads and tureens of other prepared foods, while giant pots full of tavshilim simmer away on gas flames.
Once again, I let the expert owners prepare my dishes to sample. From the Ashkenazi kitchen came rich, creamy chopped liver, and a loaf of sweet noodle kugel, studded with plump raisins and laced with generous swirls of cinnamon. The pareve lokshen kugel makes a great side dish, but I have found it also to be extremely versatile. I like it sprinkled with chopped walnuts and a dollop of applesauce for dessert and enhanced with cottage cheese and sour cream (or yogurt) for breakfast.
The warm dishes chosen for me were moussaka – although not the Greek version, with potato and bechamel sauce, but rather ground beef and eggplant layered lasagna-style in a thick tomato sauce – and mafroum, the North African dish of baked potato under a thin wrapping of cabbage. This was my only disappointment: The plain potatoes were not stuffed with ground meat, and the sauce was bland and watery.
Finally, I enjoyed a tasty variation on chicken curry. Apart from the trademark coconut cream sauce, it was quite different from the Indian classic, as these chunks of white meat chicken were accompanied by plenty of colorful vegetables: strips of red and yellow bell peppers, discs of orange carrot and plenty of green peas. Certainly, a healthful version (to which I added tofu for extra protein).
Kosher (closed on Shabbat, no rabbinical certification).
HaHarash St. 8, Ramat Hasharon.
The writer was a guest of the delicatessens.