A spin on the classic shakshuka offers a riot of international flavors

'Benedict' holds its annual global festival, while 'Brasserie' serves a Creole version.

The options for shakshuka are endless (photo credit: SARIT GOFFEN)
The options for shakshuka are endless
(photo credit: SARIT GOFFEN)
Benedict, Israel’s foremost restaurant chain specializing in breakfast all day (and night), is currently holding its annual shakshuka festival this month, featuring variations on the Tunisian-Israeli favorite inspired by the cuisines of the world.
The special festival menu, available in all of Benedict’s nine branches throughout the country, is being served through December 14. There are no fewer than eight versions of shakshuka (NIS 65-79) listed in the special bilingual menu, including several reprised from last year.
Two of the shakshuka dishes are identified by color, reflecting their main ingredient. There are options for every preference: with meat, with cheese, with seafood, vegetarian and even one vegan option. All are served with a side salad, Benedict’s famous basket of breads and choice of a drink, adding up to a full meal.
Although we arrived at the beginning of the dinner hour, our first choice of international shakshuka – the Thai shrimp – was no longer available, having been snapped up during the daylight hours. This still left six non-Israeli options to choose from, besides the familiar local everyday version.
The first shakshuka we tasted was the Bordelaise, one of several making their debut this year. It featured two poached eggs on a bed of mushrooms stewed in the classic French wine sauce, redolent with garlic and herbs. The eggs themselves were drenched in yet another European sauce, Hollandaise, and sprinkled with chives. Accompanied by extra baguette piled high with sliced onion confiture, this was a rich and distinctive dish. 
Next was the Amatriciana, an Italian version reminiscent of a classic marinara sauce, enhanced with Gouda cheese and roasted bacon. Unfortunately, the cheese was barely noticeable, but the savory meat added a nice dimension to the thick, flavorful sauce.
Although we were quite full, we took a look at the separate dessert menu. After learning that our first choice was sold out, and both our second choices had been discontinued altogether, we decided to improvise dessert from the muffins in the bread basket, together with Benedict’s own apple-cinnamon jelly.
Breakfast and brunch at Brasserie M&R feature international specialties
Brasserie M&R, one of the anchors of the popular R2M restaurant group, is also open round-the-clock, but breakfast is served only until noon every day. And its shakshuka is available only at breakfast or weekend brunch (until 1 p.m. on Saturdays).
Brasserie’s brunch menu comprises four (untitled) sections: Main courses (NIS 52-64), Sandwiches (NIS 42-58), Vegan (NIS 42-52) and Continental breakfasts (NIS 18). Similar to Benedict, brunch includes the house basket of breads and choice of a hot drink.
It is worth starting brunch with one of the eight reasonably priced morning specialty cocktails (NIS 24-34). The Bloody Mary, for example, has just the right amount of heat.
Brasserie’s shakshuka – exactly what it is called in Hebrew – has the fancy name Oeufs Creoles, eggs Creole-style: three eggs cooked in an appetizing sauce made from fresh tomatoes and seasoned with hot peppers. The peppers notwithstanding, this version was remarkably mild. It was also served with a generous side salad.
The bread basket here contains three rolls, two muffins and two slices of dark, multi-grain bread. It is accompanied by butter and Brasserie’s jam.
There is another international egg dish on the brunch menu that is rarely encountered in Israel: chilaquiles mexicanos. The version here is unlike any I have seen in the USA or Mexico: It consists of two crispy corn tortilla shells smothered with cubed avocado and smoked meat in green salsa, all topped with two sunny-side up eggs. The salsa was a tad on the vinegary side, while the ingredients worked as well individually as they did in concert.
When it comes to dessert, there are only three choices until 1 p.m., but when the regular menu switches to lunch, the dessert menu grows to no fewer than 11 choices (NIS 32-62). We followed the waitress’s advice and ordered the crepes Suzette – crepes swimming in orange brandy alongside a scoop of premium vanilla ice cream. It was delicious, almost to the point of decadence.
The riz au lait, or rice pudding, meanwhile, comes in a size large enough for two to share. The sweet pudding was excellent, and when the waitress poured toffee sauce over it, the result was positively intense. 
Benedict
Not kosher
Rothschild Blvd. 29, Tel Aviv
Ph: 03-686-8657
Brasserie M&R
Not kosher
Shlomo Ibn Gabirol St. 70, Tel Aviv
Ph: 03-696-7111
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.