A new lunch in town: Cafe Europa

Cafe Europa introduces lunch, discontinues pinchos and aperitivo

Cafe Europa (photo credit: STUDIO AVIRA)
Cafe Europa
(photo credit: STUDIO AVIRA)
The venerable Cafe Europa, an anchor of restaurant row near the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street, has finally, after eight years of holding out, begun serving lunch, weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. (on weekends, there is brunch from 12 to 5 p.m.). At the same time, the restaurant has terminated its trademark late afternoon pinchos and aperitivo, replacing it with a more traditional “happy hour”: 30% off the menu from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Cafe Europa’s lunch is the familiar value lunch (a.k.a. “business” lunch), whose customary format includes a complimentary starter with the order of a main course. Here there is an extra bonus: free focaccia, with two tasty dips – black eggplant cream and mild tomato salsa, both swimming in olive oil.
The restaurant’s normal dining area – its al fresco courtyard – is enclosed in the winter, and heated to a warm and toasty temperature. Interestingly, some of the tables sport white tablecloths, while others do not.
Beverages are listed together with the food on the main, one-page lunch menu, and feature discounted alcoholic drinks: three specialty cocktails (NIS 32), as well as glasses of white and red wine (NIS 28) and draft beer (NIS 18). A surprising entry in this category is one I have never seen before in Israel, and had me feeling nostalgic: “soda pop.”
The bilingual food menu comprises four sections: Starters (NIS 24-42), Main courses (NIS 59-98), Charcoal grill (NIS 59-109) and Sweets (NIS 19-48). There are adequate vegan options among the appetizers and main courses.
Among the starters is one soup of the day, which beckoned on a cold, blustery afternoon. That day we were treated to orange soup, made from pumpkin, carrot and sweet potato. This highly seasoned version had an extraordinarily velvety texture; sprinkled with pumpkin seeds for a bit of contrasting crunch, the thick soup was warm and satisfying.
Our waiter recommended the beef tartare, which turned out to be unlike any I had previously encountered. Instead of being shaped into the expected cylindrical mound and topped with quail’s egg, it resembled a kind of tabouleh, with the bulgur wheat component replaced by unimaginably thin fried rice paper wafers. The raw beef, accented by chopped green herbs, was extremely fresh and big on flavor.
We went on to select one entrée each from the next two sections. The intriguingly named “six-hour pasta” begged an explanation; we were told the time frame referred to slow-cooked veal neck, which was then tossed with fresh pappardelle made from scratch. The tender shredded meat and broad ribbons of paste were drenched in a rich butter sauce, all adding up to a hearty and delicious dish. 
Our choice from the grill was one of the choices that were not on a skewer: sirloin steak. We were not asked how we wanted it prepared, but fortunately it was grilled to a perfect medium: the pleasantly charred exterior revealed a pink and juicy interior, resulting in a succulent cut that would do any steakhouse proud.
The steak was accompanied by a truly gigantic roasted sweet potato half, curiously seasoned with shining grains of coarse salt.
There were only three desserts available that day for us to choose from, with one mysteriously costing twice as much as the others. The vanilla brûlée was a semifreddo crème brûlée, topped with a scoop of premium pistachio ice cream; enhanced by cocoa crumble and toasted pistachio nuts, this was one outstanding dessert. 
Finally, we concluded our meal with the churros, which were done just right: slightly crispy on the outside and flecked with large granules of sugar, on the whole these were soft, melt-in-your-mouth crullers. The only drawback were the relatively lackluster dips: a weak butterscotch and unremarkable dulce de leche, when a nice, gooey chocolate would have done the trick.
Cafe Europa
Not kosher
Rothschild Blvd. 9, Tel Aviv
Ph: 03-525-9987
Daily: Noon-4 p.m. and 5 p.m.-midnight (Thursdays until 1 a.m.)
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.