Sunday, April 4, 2010;
US Airways offers nonstop flights from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport starting at about $1,200 round trip; one-stop flights from Washington Dulles cost about the same.
WHERE TO STAY
Leonardo Hotel Basel
156 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv, 011-972-3-520-7711
A friendly, recently renovated hotel across the street from the Mediterranean. Doubles, including breakfast, start at $155.
WHERE TO EAT
99 Hahasmoneans St., Tel Aviv
Locals crowd this bakery like crazy on Friday mornings. The breads, granola and jars of marzipan honey are worth braving the long lines for.
Mel & Michelle
155 Ben Yehuda St., Tel Aviv
011-972-3-529-3232; not kosher
Yogev Yehros and business partner-chef Nir Weiman opened this cozy 40-seat trattoria almost four years ago. Dishes are Italian, built with some of the freshest seasonal Israeli ingredients: pan-seared gray mullet instead of branzino, for example, served with squid-ink risotto, fresh yogurt sauce and a drizzle of Israeli olive oil. Dinner for two with wine, about $80.
6 Koifman St., Tel Aviv
011-972-3-516-6516; not kosher
Increase your cool quotient just by sitting at the large rectangular bar. Celebrity chef Yonatan Roshfeld might be perched there himself on a Sunday afternoon, when the vibe is relaxed. Tapas-style dishes are thoughtfully composed, and the references are multinational: Balkan shrimp salad with olive tapenade; calamari a la plancha (grilled) with green hummus. Order with your eyes, and it's easy to spend $60 to $70 per person, not including wine.
Orna and Ella
33 Shenkin St., Tel Aviv
This is a casual, breezy spot on one of the city's hipster avenues. It features small yam pancakes and a menu of mostly vegetarian and seafood dishes. A meal for two, $20 to $40.
17 Habarzel St., Tel Aviv
One of the newer, more stylish kosher restaurants. The owners and chef Eitan Mizrachi seem to have spared no expense in creating a sleek dining room and beautifully presented food. Five small plates will set you back more than $50, but you'll get a representative sample of what's on offer. The marinated, slow-roasted spare ribs were some of the best we'd tasted anywhere. Coconut milk stands in for dairy in desserts, with great results.
2 Yoezer Aish Habira St., Jaffa
011-972-3-683-9115; not kosher Shaul Avron's restaurant has 200-year-old stone walls, vaulted ceilings, rustic wooden tables, an excellent wine cellar and a kitchen that turns out thick grilled steaks and butter sauces. Dinner may set you back $150 per person with a modestly priced bottle of wine.
3 Rabbi Hanina St., Jaffa
When other restaurants are winding down, this place is just hitting its stride. Most of the tables are outside, in an alley. Upstairs, a small room contains the master work of chef-owner Vince Mustar: salumis, smoked meat and sausages hanging in climate-controlled glass cases. Dinner for two, $40 to $60, not including wine.
40 Lilienblum St., Tel Aviv
011-972-3-510-4435; not kosher
Chef Benny Lifshitz and a skeleton crew decide what they're going to cook daily, once they see what's in the kitchen's intake and what's in the market. This restaurant wrapped around a bar is owned by controversial avant-garde chef Eyal Shani. Chances are you've never had vegetables prepared and presented this way. A whole head of purple cabbage, braised for five hours with lamb bones and stock, develops a deeply caramelized exterior and a completely tender, fall-apart interior. Grab a coveted seat at the round bar to witness the theater of the open kitchen. Dinner for two could be $60, without wine.
8 Ma'avar Yabok, Tel Aviv
011-972-52-703-5888; not kosher
Remains a hard-to-get reservation two years after chef Eyal Shani started it. The sheer entertainment factor of a very open, interactive kitchen is one reason, and the fact that it's open only on Wednesday and Thursday nights is another. The large, casually appointed (read: mismatched furniture) dining room stays dark, with light and attention focused on the chefs. Order the carpaccio, and Shani himself might bring it to the table as not-so-thin slices of raw beef between sheets of cellophane. With several thwacks of his meat pounder, carpaccio appears, which the chef then tops with a grating of Parmesan and a high pour of olive oil. Dinner for two, $80 to $100, not including wine.