Balkan Tapas

Shishko Resto-Bar brings regulars back with its Balkan comfort food

Shishko Resto-Bar (photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Shishko Resto-Bar
(photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
The Har Sinai alley that wraps around two sides of Tel Aviv’s Great Synagogue is the unique location of a string of popular night-time eateries – two serving Middle Eastern food, one Thai restaurant, and one veteran fixture of the last nine years: Shishko Resto-Bar, whose Balkan roots inspire its cuisine.
The secret to Shishko’s success, besides its tasty food, are the friendly waitresses and staff, who speak excellent English. According to the manager, “We are a family restaurant – not because we are family-owned, but because we make everyone feel like family.” It also helps that they keep their customers happily lubricated, thanks to occasional rounds of complimentary shots.
The tavern-cum-restaurant’s full bar mixes six specialty cocktails (NIS 42-49), plus a tempting house sangria. We enjoyed two of the former: the slightly sweet Sofia, made with Bulgarian vodka, and the Bermuda Mule, which gets its kick from ginger.
The menu comprises seven sections: Starter (NIS 39), Appetizers (NIS 12-36), Salads (NIS 42-46), Fish and Seafood (NIS 44-88), Grill (36-58), Specials (NIS 34-56), and Desserts (NIS 18-38). There are vegan/vegetarian options in most of the categories.
Regardless of the category (with the exception of the salads), it is helpful to think of all the dishes on the menu as tapas – intermediate-sized and meant for sharing.
Interestingly, the starter category contains just one, tripartite item: freshly baked challa, served with thick tahini and an oversized bowl of pickled vegetables (NIS 39). These three components can also each be ordered separately, as appetizers; the delicious soft challa – which costs only NIS 12 on its own – is particularly recommended, as it goes well with so many of the dishes on the menu, and should last throughout the meal.
The two appetizers we did choose were the chopped liver with horseradish, and the egg salad with fried onion. The richness of the creamy liver was cut by the freshly grated white horseradish, while the egg salad was enhanced nicely by the shreds of fried onion.
Once we got past some confusing English on the menu (the word “reach” turned out to be rich), we opted for the beet salad with baby spinach, arugula, feta cheese, and walnuts. This particular interplay of colors, flavors and textures is always a winner; and although these beets were not as sweet as usual, this combination was no exception.
Our waitress informed us that one of the most popular fish and seafood dishes was Shishko’s distinctive falafel shrimp: breaded and fried shrimp that were crispy on the outside and plump and flavorful inside. We found the coating to be a bit excessive, but by removing some of it, it was possible to find the right balance. And a nice bonus was the house aioli, which tasted like a good homemade tartar sauce.
An intriguing entry in the Grill category was the Alan Talmor beef sausages, which come from one of the country’s most exclusive suppliers of charcuterie. The two sausages – one spicy and one stuffed with cheese – were certainly deserving of the adjective artisan.
In the Specials category, the Hebrew menu filled in some important blanks; the English menu listed simply roast beef, while the Hebrew version added the important qualifier: veal. The razor-thin slices of pink roast veal, accompanied by baby cornichons and pearl onions, were a real delicacy.
Shishko’s wine list is not extensive, but virtually all the vintages are available by the glass. The knowledgeable manager recommended an Israeli red and a French white that complemented our food choices perfectly.
The four desserts on the menu did not inspire us at first glance, as they were all so similar to those found in countless other restaurants. Fortunately, both our selections turned out to be pleasant surprises: for starters, the New York cheesecake, drizzled with salted caramel, was dense and satisfying.
But it was the crack pie that really exceeded expectations: the unusually thin slice, dwarfed by a mound of fluffy whipped cream, was the best version I have tasted in recent memory.
Not kosher
Har Sinai St 2, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Tel. (03) 560-6406
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.