Dining: Naturally delicious

Zakaim in Tel Aviv is a vegan haven.

Zakaim vegan restaurant (photo credit: PR)
Zakaim vegan restaurant
(photo credit: PR)
The Zakaim vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv is located on a small back street off Allenby Street. The official address is 98 Allenby Street, but it faces more into the Simtat Beit Hashoeva back alley.
As we entered the premises, we were taken with the apparently ramshackle décor, but there was also a sense of hominess and welcome. And then we started to notice the details, such as the fetching array of rustic-looking baskets teeming with robust vegetables. Then our eyes began to register the eclectic items spread across the interior, which seemed to pop out from practically every angle. In a previous professional life, the proprietors ran a secondhand store, and much of what was left over provided a spread of surprising appendages on the walls, and bits and bobs affixed to the ceiling. The fusion of industrial and countrified items served to underscore what Zakaim is all about. This is a restaurant that offers patrons healthy and delicious dishes in the most urban – if not urbane – of milieus.
There was no shortage of variety right across the board. The avocado and sweet potato sashimi, with lemon, onions, olive oil and green chili, was a delicate delight, while the bruschetta with tomato and green olives, fresh onion, cherry tomatoes and za’atar hit the texture-flavor mix nail right on the head.
Variety is the name of the game at Zakaim, with surprising combinations at practically every turn. For example, the unexpected marriage of pickled kohlrabi in lemon and garlic, strawberry, chili and caramelized cashew nuts. Or the stuffed tomatoes with rice, fresh plums, greens, Persian lemon and tzaziki. A little closer to the neck of the woods, there was a filling dish of masabbacha ful, lima beans, freshly squeezed tomato and pickled chili, which came with a piece of homemade sourdough bread. We also tried the stuffed cabbage filled with jasmine rice, plums, raisins, garlic, Persian lemon and a plentiful offering of green leaves with tehina sauce.
The Zakaim chefs are keen on seasoning and titillating the patrons’ taste buds with generous amounts of lemon, but they always seem to stay on the right side of the flavor overload line.
After a breather, we launched into our desserts. The airy mousse was tasty but a little on the ethereal side, while the “cheese” closer offered a consummately delicate cheesy reference, with refreshing plum and apple supplement, although there were some slightly ovaerly sweet elements in there as well. Even so, the sum of the parts was inviting, like the majority of the dishes, and all were carefully crafted.
Speaking of which, Zakaim’s street-level piece de resistance were the hand-torn fries with homemade ketchup. Our genial waiter explained that the potatoes are boiled until soft, and then manually twisted and mangled to produce not only some intriguing shapes but also possibly the best and most thoroughly fried fries around.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher
98 Allenby St. (corner of 20 Simtat Bet Hashoeva), Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 613-5060