Internationally inspired brunches

Nithan Thai and Lilush serve outstanding brunches evoking foreign cuisines

Nithan Thai restaurant in Tel Aviv (photo credit: DROR EINAV)
Nithan Thai restaurant in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: DROR EINAV)
The weekend brunch trend has picked up so much steam in recent years that it has now reached Asian restaurants. Nithan Thai recently announced its new brunch – the handiwork of Chef Shahaf Shabtay, fresh off his appointment as chef for El Al’s business class – bringing the best of East and West to a meal that will start your day off right.
The brunch is so new that the English menu is still in preparation, although it may well be ready by the time this goes to print. Fortunately, it is neither long nor complicated, and the knowledgeable wait staff can explain how it works, as well as the dishes.
The format is similar to many of the brunches offered in upscale Tel Aviv restaurants: you order a main course, and it comes with an array of appetizers, as well as a choice of cocktail or hot drink. The other good news here is the price: although Nithan Thai is not known as an inexpensive restaurant, the entire brunch is a very reasonable NIS 90 per person, somewhat less than comparable brunches in town. (I would not be surprised if the price is adjusted upwards in the future.)
Included in the price, diners get a choice of two of five brunch cocktails: the Weekend Mimosa – prosecco, orange and lemongrass – and the Nithan Tonic – Martini, tonic and St. Germain – from the restaurant’s full bar, which specializes in Asian twists on Western classics. The hot drinks as well offer Asian variations on tea and coffee.
Brunch really gets started with two trays brought to the center of the table, one bearing Asian delicacies, the other staples of Western breakfasts. The Morning Fun assortment included such tantalizing small bites as pani puri with salmon and pickled lemon, wasabi-mint sushi roll, tarragon trout bruschetta and Vietnamese spring roll, as well as more substantial dishes: Nithan Thai’s premium papaya salad, with cashews instead of peanuts, and a vegetable salad seasoned with basil.
The “bits and pieces” tray (my companion’s whimsical translation of kakha baktana) featured brioche and rolls with terrific spreads and dips: truffle butter, berry jam, tehina with peppers and chili, and a few small slices of exquisite cheese for good measure.
Of the seven main courses to choose from, three bear names attesting to remote geographical influence: New York, Vietnam and France. Although Nithan Thai prides itself on its daily vegan menu, that option is very limited at brunch.
Our waitress recommended the Good Morning Vietnam – crystal shrimp, soft-boiled eggs and asparagus, all swimming in a fragrant sauce. The delicate, plump shrimp tempura and al dente asparagus were enhanced beautifully by the egg-enriched sauce, which we mopped up to the very last drop with the accompanying fresh hallah.
The New York brunch was every bit as spectacular: a golden brown goat cheese omelette, topped with rocket and herbs and drenched in Nithan Thai’s signature C-C sauce: a marvelously complex yet mild sauce that redefines the meaning of curry. This dish is a brilliant fusion of East and West, with a unique sauce that we ended up eating with a soup spoon.
For those with an appetite for still more, the regular dessert menu from Back Door, Nithan Thai’s sister eatery, is available. Either the pumpkin chocolate or the chocolate cashew would delight any chocoholic.
Lilush: Breakfast extravaganzas every day, all day long
Lilush, a popular neighborhood bistro on Frishman Street just a block from Rabin Square, boasts one of the most extensive menus in town, with dishes ranging from classic comfort food to gourmet indulgences. For fans of brunch who do not want to be limited to weekends, this place is a godsend: breakfast/brunch is served seven days a week until 6 p.m.
The bilingual separate breakfast/brunch menu comprises no fewer than nine dishes, ranging from traditional Israeli to exotic creations inspired by foreign lands (NIS 36-49). There are also savory and sweet treats baked fresh every morning – such as the spinach pie with yogurt and honey, which is likely to sell out by the afternoon – and a morning bread basket, with butter and wild-berry jam (NIS 14).
The brunch dishes bearing names of faraway places are Morning in Manhattan and Morning in Normandy. The former is a mouthwatering variation on eggs Benedict: poached eggs and smoked salmon (or ham) on ciabatta toast with cream cheese, tomato and onion, drizzled with a delicious taratura sauce.
The latter, meanwhile, is a huge omelette stuffed to overflowing with cubed potato, rich cream and smoked goose (or ham): a good, old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast, designed to fuel your day. Like the Morning in Manhattan, the main dish is complemented by a fresh salad of coarsely cut vegetables.
Not surprisingly, it is hard to save room for dessert here, although there is no lack of tempting choices. But as this lingering winter draws to a close, I would be remiss if I were not to mention that Lilush is also famous for its many hearty soups: no less than 10 filling soups every day.
Stay tuned to this section in coming weeks for fuller coverage of Lilush’s multi-faceted menu.
Nithan Thai. Not kosher. Ha’arba’a St. 21, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 560-0555.
Lilush. Not kosher. Frishman Street 73, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 529-1852
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.