Tapping into tapas: Johnny Hill is the new kid in Tel Aviv

Johnny Hill is a great new addition to the Tel Aviv dining scene.

Johnny Hill tapas. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Johnny Hill tapas.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 When you can’t take a vacation, you compromise just to get that holiday feeling. Going to a restaurant that recreates the atmosphere of another country will bring you close to that feeling.
Johnny Hill (named for the restaurant’s Colombian chef, whose picture graces the menu) is one of those places. This tapas bar is a warm new addition to Tel Aviv’s bustling Ahad Ha’am Street.
My first impression was of a place that knows its nature. Sleek, modern and uncomplicated, a huge impressively stocked bar covers a large section of the restaurant, while high ceilings, wooden seats and tables create a sophisticated, low-key mood.
The service was first class, as we were immediately greeted by our bartender, who talked us through the new cocktail list and menu.
The menu is divided into three types of tapas: Vegetarian/Vegan, Seafood and Meat. The prices are reasonable but the portions are small, so you may run up a bigger bill than you expect (about three or four plates per person if you’re hungry).
While waiting for our tapas, we were presented with two delicious cocktails. I had a whisky-based one, while my dining partner had the vodka-based version. We were very happy campers.
We began our culinary journey with the salmon fillet in a bisque sauce (NIS 42). The fish was crisp on the outside, and the inside was absolutely perfect: not a drop overdone or underdone. The sauce was thick and creamy and accentuated the salmon very well.
This was followed by poke tuna with pineapple, coconut milk and ponzu (NIS 42). The tuna was soft and flavorful. I think the only thing I would change is that I would ask for less sauce.
Next up was the purple calamari served with pickled lemon cream (NIS 38). The calamari were perfectly grilled and very tender. It’s very easy to overcook calamari, and tough calamari is a crime. This dish was fantastic After a bit of a breather and some more cocktails, we were ready for round two.
We were served the seared carnita asado on patacon (NIS 42).
Patacon is basically fried plaintain that is mashed and spread out very thinly. It is a perfect substitute for bread, as it is healthful, thin and has a slight plaintain flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the taste of the meat.
The asado was juicy and tender and simply melted in the mouth.
This was followed by the quesadilia with pineapple, Manchengo and cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and chipotle aioli (NIS 36). This dish was the perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors. Comfort food at its best.
Next up were the beef empanadas (NIS 25). I’m not an empanada guru, but I’ve had my share around the city. These were topnotch and made with love. They were flavorful without being overly seasoned, and the dough was light and flaky and not drenched in oil. Each empanada had the perfect amount of filling.
Last, we were presented with the chicken anticuchos with BBQ sauce, pineapple, chili and coriander (NIS 38). Anticuchos are a South American specialty of marinated grilled meat on skewers. The chicken was tender and juicy, and the hint of spices added a nice touch, as did the slight charred flavor.
We ordered hot drinks and took another breather. For dessert, we chose churros (NIS 34), which is a traditional Spanish dessert. The churros were crisp, fried to perfection and lightly coated with sugar. The accompanying dulce de leche dipping sauce was very rich and complemented the churros very well.
In my opinion, Johnny Hill is a great new addition to the Tel Aviv dining scene. As it has just opened, I can imagine that every aspect of this already great restaurant will only get better and stronger.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Johnny Hill
Not kosher
27 Ahad Ha’am, Tel Aviv
Tel: 053-611-2101