Silo and Cafe Popular offer bountiful, all-you-can-eat brunches

Israel’s eateries have become creative in their efforts to attract diners to their brunches amid coronavirus restrictions.

Silo, Holon (photo credit: BEN HASDAI)
Silo, Holon
(photo credit: BEN HASDAI)
Among the restrictions mandated by the Health Ministry’s “purple seal” status for restaurants is a ban on buffet service, since it is too easy to spread the virus when multiple people handle the same serving utensils (not to mention crowding in lines). So Israel’s eateries have become creative in their efforts to attract diners to their brunches. Cases in point: Cafe Popular in Tel Aviv and Silo in Holon.
Cafe Popular is the latest restaurant from talented chef Avi Bitton, the culinary genius behind the rapidly expanding upscale delicatessen chain Sulica. Brunch here was introduced only recently, but the response has already been overwhelming: on the Saturday of our visit, all of the tables – which fortuitously are all outdoors – were booked.
The popularity of this novel brunch is primarily due to the excellence of the food, of course, but it doesn’t hurt that there is good value for money. The price of brunch is NIS 116 per person – admittedly not the cheapest brunch in town – but it includes unlimited refills of no fewer than 12 intermediate-sized dishes, featuring such premium items as roast beef, smoked salmon and shrimp.
Also included are a choice of “refresher” – cold non-alcoholic drink – or hot drink; once again, the cold drinks are not your run-of-the-mill soft drinks, but natural concoctions like pomegranate-orange or mango iced tea made from scratch. There is also a variety of reasonably priced creative specialty cocktails (NIS 21-23) and spritz combinations (NIS 32-34).
Naturally, brunch at Cafe Popular comes with a basket of good breads: toasted challah, buttery brioche and crusty rustic bread. Served with European butter and strawberry jam straight from Sulica deli, and soon to be joined by feta cheese in tomato cream, it is all too easy to fill up on the breads – but not a good idea with so much to come.
The dishes are served in three rounds: six plus three plus three, each course increasing in complexity, culminating in substantial egg dishes. The most notable dishes among the first group are the cauliflower salad (finely diced crunchy fresh cauliflower with chopped hazelnuts and Pecorino cheese) ceviche with beet, and smoked salmon with potato salad garnished with fried onion.
The two standouts in the second round were the black lentils massabha, a slightly piquant lentil stew with tehina, and pastilla, spinach turnovers with Pinhas cheese and yogurt. All the dishes in this group were vegetarian; on the whole, the brunch offers enough to satisfy vegetarians, although probably not vegans.
The last round is the climax: plump grilled shrimp, unseasoned but served on a great corn polenta; scrambled egg with a potent truffle cream; and roast beef with sunny-side up eggs sprinkled with za’atar and pepper. We could not resist seconds of roast beef with extra bread.
There are also three optional dishes from the restaurant’s main menu (at an extra charge) and a dessert menu (NIS 42-44). We had no room or inclination for dessert, after polishing off the sweet mini-brioches (that had come with the scrambled eggs) with the strawberry jam, although we hated passing up the French toast.
Brunch is served Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., although the last reservations are for 1 p.m.  
Silo Meditaliano is another restaurant ideal for these times, with a spacious al fresco wooden deck overlooking the artificial river of a water park. Until recently, it had a daily breakfast buffet, which has now given way to a weekend “mishteh haboker” – morning feast – and that is indeed what it is: an appetizer course consisting of 10 mezze, followed by a second course of three intermediate-sized dishes, a third featuring a choice of one of five main courses, and one dessert.
In keeping with the restaurant’s Meditaliano theme, the courses are named cicchetti (small plates), primi and secundi. All four courses, plus a drink, come at the surprisingly low price of NIS 89 per adult, NIS 49 per child (under the age of eight).
The menu is not in English yet, but one is planned. However, most dishes are fixed, and the main courses are fairly straightforward. 
The meal kicks off with a welcome drink, a small frozen margarita with less alcohol than the one offered as one of four morning cocktails (including sangria). This is quickly followed by 10 cicchetti, some of which rotate in accordance with the availability of the freshest ingredients.
There are free refills of the appetizers, but it is hard enough to finish one complete round. The noteworthy starters were the Asian quinoa, the toasted burghul, the Cypriot tzatziki, and the hummus, which was as good as you would find in an Arab restaurant.
The second course appeared almost simultaneously with the first, so you may want to advise them to wait a bit. In fact, the pasta was not warm, but the waiter immediately agreed to reheat it. The same was the case with the very good spinach phyllo (the staff is very efficient at running stuff back to the kitchen, as well as clearing and changing plates after every course). The third primo was a pizzetta margarita, which we immediately packed up to take home.
The secundi are all egg dishes (one is French toast). The shakshuka was seasoned just right and served exactly as we had requested: we had been asked whether we wanted our eggs runny or hard.
The eggs Florentine can also be described as a green shakshuka – but that is too pedestrian a term for this superb dish of poached eggs on a bed of rich spinach cream with peas and mushrooms. Grated Parmesan cheese was the final touch to this harmonious dish.
The sole dessert was huge, meant to be shared by an entire table. It was a giant carrot cake, the consistency of a thick pudding, topped with entire chocolate rugalakh and a scoop of whipped cream. Another satisfactory dish that found its way home with us.

Brunch is served Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. (Fridays from 8 a.m.). Reservations are highly recommended.
The writer was a guest of both restaurants.
Cafe Popular. Not kosher. Dizengoff St 197, Tel Aviv. Tel. 03-555-2020
Silo. Not kosher. Peres Park, Holon. Tel. (03) 573-3315

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