I love sitting in cafés right on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, watching the people going up and down the street, walking their cute dogs, on their way to a bar, or on their night jog. I thought we were going to another typical Dizengoff spot, but as we got closer, the romantic design of Rafa's, the smiling faces of the waitresses and Rafa, the owner, were very welcoming, and along with the music and people who sat at the tables around us, the whole atmosphere felt special. We sat down right on the street, just like we're used to, but felt like we're somewhere else, far away. No pretentiousness, this place offers good vibes, fresh ingredients, a different concept and great food. Just what you'd look for in a restaurant.
We got the menu and started drooling. It's divided to three sections - veggies, fish and meat - each section offering a wide variety of dishes. We expected a tapas meal, so you could imagine our surprise when the dishes that arrived were much larger than tapas size. Apparently, the place's branding is misleading, the dishes are sized somewhere between a first and a main course, and are meant for sharing. So you can get a very varied meal, ordering many dishes to share with your meal-partner and still stay at a reasonable price range. Not a bad deal, right?
First we got the bread, warm and crispy with butter and spicy tomato salsa on the side, yum. Next, we got a roots salad, thin long pieces of root veggies, with oranges, sesame vinegar and feta cheese, which was really different and tasty, and a dish of salmon filet Gravlax, pickled in vodka and beets, with crème fraîche and relish, with the little bread toasts served on the side were a great dish. The fish Carpaccio was one of the evening specials. Served with hot peppers, hearts of green tomatoes, and sour cream, we licked our fingers and soaked the bread, wiping the plate clean. The next one was a real wow: artichokes on top of a portabello mushroom, served in a beautiful way which looked like some kind of a meat dish, topped with parmesan cheese and nuts, which bounced all of the flavors up high.
The Arancini, little fried balls of risotto filled with mozzarella cheese, on top of marinara sauce, had all the flavors of pizza, or even the notorious mozzarella sticks, with all the posh risotto brings with it. The duck pizza was less to our taste, only because we're not real duck lovers, but the thin dough, avocado, tomatoes, little slices of duck and arugula on top was a tasty and beautiful dish.
The last one (before the dessert, of course) was burnt sirloin with artichokes, in red wine and meat sauce, with soft and creamy mashed potatoes and mustard. This one could easily be a main course. It was delicious, well-made and interesting, concluding our meal with an amazing taste, and no more room in our stomachs. Despite that, we couldn't skip on dessert, could we? And when crème brûlée is an option, I never say no. Especially if it involves pistachios. My conclusion? You have to go get some of that tasty Rafa's.