Meat me in Sarona

Arais is a no-nonsense haven for committed carnivores.

Arais (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nestled in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Complex lies a carnivore’s paradise. Opened in 2015, Arais is the kind of place meat lovers dream about. It is the brainchild of renowned chef and culinary adviser Yaron Kestenbaum (who also owns the popular M25 restaurant in Tel Aviv’s Shuk Hacarmel).
One can choose to sit at an outside table overlooking the lovely Sarona gardens, or inside, facing a large open kitchen, where you can watch the sous chefs having a ball preparing some enticing meat dishes.
A charming waitress seated us and handed us menus (available in English), which we perused while snacking on some delicious complimentary black and green olives.
Our meal opened with some fantastic starters. First up was the beef carpaccio (NIS 57), served with a tomato salsa and topped with arugula. The beef was sliced super thin and seasoned to perfection. I also loved how the intense flavors of the salsa added to the delicate flavor of the carpaccio.
Next up was the eggplant with baba ganoush (NIS 36). Roasting the eggplant in its skin created a silky texture, echoed in the smooth and creamy baba ganoush that balanced it out well.
This was followed by a spicy tomato and tahini salad (NIS 34). Super light, fresh and large, this salad was not only a healthy choice but also an excellent one. For reasons I cannot explain, the combination of ingredients in this salad simply worked well.
In between, we enjoyed two glasses of chardonnay (NIS 31 each) from the Alamos Winery. This is a fine example of top-quality Argentinian wine: fruity with vibrant acidity, clarity and precision.
We were then presented with the house meatballs (NIS 36) which are made up of four lamb kebab and merguez meatballs, served on a bed of baba ganoush. The meatballs had a solid, almost sausage-like texture, with surprisingly subtle flavor.
After a bit of a breather, it was onto mains. Naturally, we first had to try the arais (NIS 54), which is the restaurant’s signature dish. This Middle Eastern classic consists of a delicious grilled pita stuffed with rich, seasoned minced lamb. Surrounded by creamy tehina and by a flavorful fresh tomato salad, it was delicious and surprisingly not greasy (unlike how minced lamb often tends to be).
It was then time to embrace our inner chefs, as we were presented with the task of cooking a sirloin steak (NIS 32) on a hot stone exactly the way we wanted it done. The sirloin was prepared medium rare with a very slight char on the outside. This was a fun, healthy and interactive dining experience. Magically, the stone remained hot throughout the meal, still sizzling by the time it was taken away when we were done eating.
Not to be outdone, the next course we had was the beef fillet (NIS 148). It was a very generous piece of meat and the seasoning was just right. It cut so smoothly that I didn’t even need a steak knife. The fat and meat were marbled together, so every bite was tender, juicy and flavorful. I am still salivating thinking about that meat. Both steaks came accompanied by delicious roast potato and onion.
When it came time for dessert, we were presented with a variety of options. The chocolate nougat bar (NIS 39) was very tasty, but I think the winner was the pavlova (NIS 42) with white chocolate and berries. This was a delightful mix of textures and flavors that was decadent and rich but not cloyingly sweet.
All in all, it was a superb dining experience. For the meat lover, Arais hits the spot. I must say we were in a food coma by the time we were done, but it will definitely not be our last time at Arais.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher
3 Kalman Magen St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 550-9070