Eating to a Beat

Disco Tokyo is the latest success story for the R2M restaurant group.

Eating to a Beat: Disco Tokyo (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eating to a Beat: Disco Tokyo
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It is hard to imagine a more impressive accomplishment in Israel’s restaurant industry than the meteoric rise and growth of Ruti and Mati Broudo’s R2M Group: from the humble beginnings of one café in 1994, it has expanded to comprise 12 establishments (and a fleet of vehicles) employing some 700 people. Moreover, R2M can boast a number of Tel Aviv’s most popular eateries, including Brasserie, Coffee Bar, Hotel Montefiore, The Bakery (five branches), Delicatessen and now the Herzl 16 compound, housing two different culinary bars: Herzl 16 and Disco Tokyo, a Japanese counterpart.
Disco Tokyo is an izakaya-style restaurant, meaning a place that serves food meant to be consumed with drink, generally alcoholic in nature. It defines its cuisine as “Japanese-inspired dishes with an Israeli twist.” 
Disco Tokyo itself consists of just two rows of tables, in a room dominated by a stainless steel bar whose stools look into a busy open kitchen containing no fewer than seven chefs, two of whom are Asian. The narrow kitchen prepares the food for both Disco Tokyo and the much larger adjacent Herzl 16, while the bar where the mixology takes place is elsewhere in the compound’s premises.
The venue’s compact size means there is no escaping the loud rhythmic music that presumably is the reason for Disco Tokyo’s name, although there is no dance floor. Adding to the overall decibel level are the loud voices of other diners straining to make themselves heard over the music; needless to say, this is not the place to come for conversation over dinner.
Fortunately, there is plenty of good food and drink to focus on. There are four specialty cocktails (NIS 48-52), made with creative combinations of Japanese and Western spirits. The Jasmine Niban, for example blends gin, passion fruit, green tea and jasmine shochu, while the Hebess Cooler combines Hebess Cool shochu, gin, Campari and lemon tonic. Both were intriguingly different, complex and refreshing.
The bilingual food menu is dated, meaning that it is updated and printed anew daily. Presumably, the menu does not change drastically from one day to the next, more like gradual changes as the seasons progress.
THE FOOD comprises four sections (although no category headings appear on the printed menu): Cold Starters (NIS 54-72), Warm Starters (NIS 42-68), Main Courses, (NIS 68-152) and Desserts (NIS 42). On the evening of our visit, there were hardly any vegetarian or vegan options.
Appearing at the top of the menu all by itself is the house bread (NIS 18): Yaki-buns served with a spicy miso aioli. They were startlingly reminiscent of American Parker House rolls, making me wish they were served with butter instead of the spread similar to spicy mayo.   
For our cold starter we selected the grilled asparagus with butter miso sauce. Served at room temperature, the perfectly cooked al dente baby asparagus was drenched in a delicious sauce – which we mopped up with the aforementioned pale white rolls.
Our first warm starter was a tempura course featuring shrimp, broccoli and zucchini flowers. The batter was just right – light and crispy, enhancing rather than masking the true tastes of the plump shrimp and fresh vegetables.  
We were a little surprised to find among this group of starters bulgogi, which is Korean rather than Japanese. Nevertheless, since it is not found on many Israeli menus, we allowed ourselves to be tempted into ordering it. The dish was beautifully presented, but regrettably did not live up to its appearance: the overwhelming sensation was of salt, and we elected not to finish the thin slices of beef. Our attentive waitress noticed this, and said she would pass our comments on to the kitchen.
Our first main course was broiled duck with soba noodles, served with a dipping sauce and dabs of daikon and wasabi for optional additional seasoning of the jus. The tender, flavorful duck practically melted in the mouth, needing no help from the condiments.  
Next came sirloin steak with black garlic cream. The thick slices of premium beef were positively succulent, while the accompanying stir-fried green vegetables – asparagus, green beans and spinach – were outstanding in their own right.
There is a more than adequate selection of international wines, especially for a Japanese restaurant. True to its izakaya origins, there is also a sake section on the alcohol menu, as well as several brands of beer imported from Japan.
The five desserts reprised the theme of the cocktails: Western treats with Japanese touches. The pumpkin tart, we were told, was inspired by Halloween, and served here with a large dollop of crême fraîche flavored with white miso, imparting an exotic flair to the familiar pie. 
Our second dessert was the whimsically named Matcha Brei – grilled croissant pudding with soft matcha ice cream and fresh figs. This variation on warm bread pudding smothered in cool, matcha-flavored frozen custard was as scrumptious as it looked.
Like all R2M restaurants, Disco Tokyo is invariably full, so making reservations (online at are highly recommended.
Disco Tokyo
Not kosher
Herzl St. 16, Tel Aviv-Yafo Phone: 03-554-4300
Sunday-Thursday: Noon-4 p.m., 6:30 p.m-11 p.m. Friday & Saturday: 6:30 p.m-11 p.m.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.