Vegan lickin’ good

A meal at Mezze can satisfy any palate.

Mezze restaurant (photo credit: PR)
Mezze restaurant
(photo credit: PR)
There is a myth circulating within certain non-vegan quarters that those who eschew the epicurean delights of meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are doomed to lead a dull gastronomic existence. In case you have been laboring under that illusion or know anyone who thinks that way, a visit to Mezze on Tel Aviv’s Ahad Ha’am Street should convince you otherwise.
Mezze (pronounced meh-zeh) started life in 2004 and, explains Efrat Rabinovitch – the distaff side of the married couple who run the restaurant – was a natural progression from the tasty domestic scene she shared with husband Gal Barzilai.
“We made all sorts of dishes for ourselves and for friends at home, and we thought ‘Why not offer this to anyone out there?’” And so it came to be.
The restaurant is located not far from Allenby Street and has a sizable office and other worker hinterland. In between creating exquisite culinary delights, Barzilai also makes a living as an actor and workshop leader, so Mezze is also frequented by many of his fellow thespians and other showbiz people. But having that kind of clientele doesn’t seem to make the restaurant too bohemian. There is a laid-back ambience to the place and something of an unpretentious vintage feel, also courtesy of the formica-topped tables outside.
Rabinovitch explains that the menu has been through several turnarounds over the years, and the accent has always been on catering to as wide a range of gastronomic leanings as possible.
“We have never had meat here, but we also never branded ourselves as a vegetarian place or as a restaurant that offers a lot of vegan food,” she says.
Around 90 percent of the items on the menu are vegan or have vegan versions, and gluten-sensitive requirements are also respected.
“We believe that if the food is good enough quality and varied enough and the price is right, people will come back,” says Rabinovitch.
Rabinovitch and Barzilai, indeed, score well on all those fronts.
Pricewise, for example, a tasty and refreshing green Mezze salad, with green beans, green apple and sunflower seeds, delicately seasoned with date vinaigrette, costs NIS 26, while a creamily textured mushroom, walnut and cashew pâté costs NIS 30.
Barzilai says they tend towards simple dishes, although we are not talking about hummous with a few drops of olive oil here. All the portions we were served were attractively presented, and we got the sense that aesthetics and texture are as important as taste for the owners.
We began our Mezze magical mystery tour with the vegan Caprese salad (NIS 35), which is based on tomatoes of various ilks and handmade organic tofu, with mint, kalamata olives and balsamic vinegar.
We also had the aforementioned mushroom, walnut and cashew pâté, which came with crispy toasted organic rye bread. We also tried the roasted okra offering of green beans, garlic, fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, coriander and organic tehina. All three dishes titillated the palate.
By this stage, we were perfectly happy to go along with anything Rabinovitch and Barzilai suggested, and we were not disappointed. For the main dish we were served black Majadara – black rice and black lentils with roasted cauliflower and onion, with a pickled lemon and tehina sauce side dish. And we had the Mezze mousaka, which comprised subtly structured layers of eggplant and potatoes, with lentils and a vegetable filling. That was complemented by a delicate cauliflower whip and caramelized cashew nuts.
After a generous breather, we were able to consider dessert. We rounded off our dinner with the Malabi creation of a creamy pudding with coconut and lemon verbena topped with berry syrup and pistachio. The piece de resistance of the entire gastronomic outing was the exquisite chocolate truffles, made with dark chocolate and a pine nut marzipan filling.
I challenge any carnivore or, indeed, vegetarian to leave Mezze feeling they have missed out on anything.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
51a Ahad Ha’am Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 629-9753
Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to midnight. Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.