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Details: Food in Tel Aviv and Jaffa

Sunday, April 4, 2010; F05

GETTING THERE

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

http://www.leonardo-hotels.com

A friendly, recently renovated hotel across the street from the Mediterranean. Doubles, including breakfast, start at $155.

WHERE TO EAT

Lechamim Bakery

99 Hahasmoneans St., Tel Aviv

011-972-3-561-8111; kosher

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.

Herbert Samuel

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

011-972-3-620-4753; kosher

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.

E-Zugi

17 Habarzel St., Tel Aviv

011-972-3-511-0075; kosher

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.

Yoezer Wine-Bar

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.

Charcuterie

3 Rabbi Hanina St., Jaffa

011-972-3-682-8843

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.

Abraxas North

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.

The Salon

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.

-- B.S.B.

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