Seaside dining at Jerusalem Beach

Gazoz Beach Restaurant has an ambitious menu for a boardwalk eatery

Gazoz Beach Restaurant (photo credit: AFIK GABBAY)
Gazoz Beach Restaurant
(photo credit: AFIK GABBAY)
Since the newly refurbished Tel Aviv boardwalk delineates the succession of beaches on clearly designed signposts, it is easy to locate Jerusalem Beach, between Banana Beach to the south and Tel Aviv Beach to the north. Tucked underneath the plaza whose marker identifies the beach named after the nation’s capital is a restaurant called Gazoz Beach, just steps away from the water’s edge, with three seating areas: an unattractive and uninviting interior that has the sole advantage of being airconditioned; low tables with plastic chairs on the sandy beach itself; and the best alternative of all – sturdy tables with canvas chairs on a flagstone patio, positioned to catch the cooling breezes from the sea.
As a rule, beach restaurants are casual eateries that do not command much culinary respect. What promised to set Gazoz Beach apart was the fact that its menu was designed by Avivit Priel, doyenne of Levontin’s Ouzeria and a highly respected chef among her peers. So it was with high hopes – and the pleasant prospect of extending the summer season while enjoying an al fresco Mediterranean sunset – that we settled in and spent more time than usual studying the two separate, and fairly extensive, bilingual menus.
One menu is devoted to cocktails and tapas, the former category featuring seven specialty cocktails (NIS 54 to 58), although one is nothing more than a simple, classic mojito, and another a rather straightforward sangria dolled up with the fancy moniker Tinto the Verano (Summer Red). We started with the Brazilian mojito, which sounded refreshing in spite of its misleading name, since rum is nowhere to be found among the ingredients: acai vodka, mint, sour and soda. It turned out to be the first time I ever had to send a cocktail back to the bartender: it was so sour it was undrinkable. I was determined to give it another chance, however, and the second time around it was tart but tasty. 
The main menu comprises six food sections, alongside a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The menu headings are Entrées (NIS 24 to 78), Mains (NIS 76 to 136), Salads (NIS 54 to 88), Toasts (NIS 52 to 56), Pizza and Pasta (NIS 56 to 79) and Desserts (NIS 25 to 40). There is also a kids’ menu; and between the tapas and principal menus, plenty of vegan/vegetarian options. 
As our starters, we opted to order one item from the 10 tapas (NIS 32 to 42), and one of the 13 appetizers listed under Entrées. The main difference between the two categories seemed to be only that the tapas portions are significantly smaller.
As we waited, we snacked on the fresh, warm focaccia (NIS 26), which was served only with a tiny amount of olive oil.
Our tapas choice was the drum fish sashimi and grapes in cold almond soup, with lemon juice, olive oil, fresh chili and micro rashad. This creative combination had Chef Priel written all over it – but alas, it lacked the finesse of her execution. The almond soup was overwhelmed by the olive oil, while overall the dish was salty.
The calamari and shrimps in an herbed crust with coriander seed crunch and lemon chipotle aioli sounded equally tempting, and fortunately, this dish did not disappoint. The batter coating was in perfect proportion to the seafood and deep-fried to a beautiful golden brown without an iota of grease. We would have preferred more shrimp, and the aioli was very spicy, but these were mere quibbles in an otherwise delicious appetizer.
This success convinced us to stay with bounty from the sea as a main course, especially since the description of the Seafood Casserole was mouthwatering: shrimp, scallops, blue crab, clams and mussels in a butter and basil bisque. Unfortunately, we were to be disappointed once again: the crab meat was gray and unappetizing, while everything was swimming in a sauce that was too thin to be a bisque and too oily to enhance the seafood.
We were to have better luck with the second main course: Grilled rib eye steak – a generous slab of juicy entrecote that was, if not steakhouse quality, definitely above average for a beach restaurant. The steak also came with excellent al dente green beans. The only letdown was the baked potato, which was not a whole spud, but a few slices of potato that had the taste and texture of having been roasted long before and then reheated.
None of the five desserts, including a pavlova meant to be shared by two (NIS 60), seemed inspired, but they covered the usual bases. The cheesecake was acceptable, as was the moist chocolate nemesis. Actually, what we enjoyed most at the end of our meal was the novel “ice pecan” – iced coffee pleasantly flavored with little chunks of candied nuts, sweet and delightful.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Gazoz Beach, Not kosher. Herbert Samuel 51, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 696-9244