Grapevine: Vegan Aviv

Tel Aviv has a surprisingly large number of vegan restaurants, and non-vegan restaurants that have several vegan dishes on the menu.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
■ TEL AVIV has been named as one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world by The Daily Meal, a website that focuses on anything and everything to do with food and drink around the world.
The city has a surprisingly large number of vegan restaurants, and non-vegan restaurants that have several vegan dishes on the menu. On a list of more than 100 such establishments in central Tel Aviv, 14 are 100-percent vegan, including Zakaim, a relatively new boutique gourmet restaurant at 20 Simtat Beit Hashoeva Street on the corner of 98 Allenby Road; Nanuchka, a Georgian restaurant at 30 Lilienblum Street; Meshek Barzilay, with one branch at 6 Ahad Ha’am Street and another in Neveh Tzedek; and Café XoHo, specializing in Asian cuisine at 17 Gordon Street; these are considered to be among the four best.
Harel Zakaim, the chef at namesake Zakaim – which has received extremely favorable reviews from diners – always loved working in the kitchen. His earliest memories are of his mother’s kitchen, where he begged to be allowed to help with whatever she was cooking or baking.
After completing his army service, he and a couple of friends went to Australia, where they found an apartment in an old, historic building that housed a restaurant on the ground floor. Zakaim went downstairs every day to ask for a job, but the chef refused to hire him because he had no experience. Finally, after about a month and a half, the chef relented and took him on as a dishwasher. Zakaim observed everything going on around him, learned the menu by heart, watched how each dish was being prepared and was overjoyed when, after several weeks, the chef said he could cut vegetables.
He eventually graduated to the point where he was permitted to prepare certain dishes, and was overjoyed. He knew that when he returned to Israel, he would open his own restaurant – and that’s exactly what he’s done.
■ TEL AVIV Mayor Ron Huldai, Netivei Ayalon CEO Avi Hudin and Uzi Itzhaki, director-general of the Transportation Ministry, attended a farewell for Izzy Borovich, the long-serving outgoing chairman of the board of Netivei Ayalon, who is leaving the post after almost 20 years. Noting that Borovich had previously been the owner of Arkia Israel Airlines, Itzhaki told him that after sky and land, his next career move would have to be the sea – and he was looking forward to seeing Borovich head up some maritime venture.
■ LIFE HAS changed somewhat for singer Yuval Banai since he went to live at Moshav Ilaniya, which was settled in 1902 and is believed to be the oldest Jewish settlement in the Lower Galilee. It was originally founded in 1899 by the Jewish Colonization Association as a training farm for would-be kibbutzniks and moshavniks; in those days, the concept of a kibbutz or moshav was based on purely agricultural lines. David Ben-Gurion once worked at Ilaniya – originally called by the Arabic name of Sejera – as a hired laborer. Almost abandoned during the War of Independence when it came under heavy siege by Arab forces, Ilaniya was revived in 1953 by immigrants from Poland, Romania and Morocco.
Banai moved there some 10 years ago to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, and for relaxation began producing olive oil. Charmed by nature’s bounty in the Galilee, he almost instantly returned to his childhood hobby of painting. He is now participating in a group exhibition in the moshav’s Beit Ha’am, but his work is only for show, not for sale.
■ TIME STANDS still for no one, not even supermodel Bar Refaeli – who will celebrate her 30th birthday with a big banquet for some 300 guests somewhere in the Sharon area. But she’s planning an even bigger event for later in the year, when she and her fiancé Adi Ezra tie the knot. The two have been an item for the past two years and got engaged in March during a Caribbean vacation; they share a luxury apartment in Tel Aviv. Rumors of the engagement were circulating for months, but Refaeli strenuously denied that a wedding was on the horizon. Ezra has already passed his 40th birthday, so it’s time for both of them to join the institution of marriage.
■ COSMETICS QUEEN and former MK Pnina Rosenblum has won a year-long battle with the National Insurance Institute to have a broken hand recognized as a work accident. Rosenblum and her daughter Chen participated in the television reality show Amazing Race. Rosenblum fell during one of the challenges and broke her hand and some of her teeth. She claimed compensation from the NII, saying she had suffered a work accident, but the NII refused to recognize it as such. Rosenblum’s lawyer Amikam Harlap argued that her entry into the competition was a marketing strategy to advertise her products, which all bear her name, and only after he proved the direct link between Rosenblum and her products – which incidentally she uses herself, always immaculately groomed – did the NII relent.