6 Best Israel Restaurants: Tel Aviv & Jerusalem’s hottest food and wine. In LA for Oscars parties!
This post contains a lot of “nom”… it’s about all the delicious restaurants we tried in Israel!
Before we dive into the food, some travel news: I’m off to Los Angeles, to attend Oscars events! Seby and I were invited to several Academy Awards festivities, including a celebrity pre-party and Oscars gifting suite. Can’t wait to bring you inside coverage of the Oscars on my social networks — add me, below, to join the fun.
On our most recent journey, the Israel Tourism Board went all-out, and treated my filmmakers and me to 5-star dinners every evening. Each restaurant offered us a hedonistic “tasting” — we picked any main course, and they served it with a humongous selection of appetizers and desserts, and unlimited wine.
I always say: when you’re traveling, eat to your heart’s content! There are foods you simply can’t find at home, not even in specialty markets (such as local cheeses and wines that don’t export out of the country). Might as well taste as much as you can, when you’re somewhere far away.
And drink up. In Hebrew, “cheers” is “l’chaim,” and we did a lot of that. Israeli vineyards have been making waves recently, overcoming the not-so-cool associations with “Kosher wine.”
I enjoyed tasty varietals with names like “Issac’s Ram” and “Star of David”. My favorite was a tasty and easy-to-drink Teperberg 1870 Cabernet/Merlot.
The first night, we had a rustic meal at Kimel Restaurant Tel Aviv. We thought the meal was over, after filling on incredibly fresh beet and pine nuts salad, goat cheese ravioli, and olive toasted bread. Then, the waiter asked, “Are you ready for the main courses?” He came out with plates loaded with fish filets, beef and lamb… Needless to stay, we left Kimel very satisfied!
Thanks to our new friend, fashion journalist Roza Sinaysky, for joining us. She blogs about Tel Aviv and international high fashion at TelAvivian. (Food photography by me, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)
The next evening, we learned that there’s a Woody Allen theme restaurant. Vicky Cristina is a Spanish eatery, located at the Hatachana compound (a collection of restaurants and shops, converted from the old Jaffa train station built in 1892). One side is more formal (like the movie character Vicky), while the other, where we dined, is loose and care-free like Cristina.
Nonetheless, the Spanish tapas were delightful — Israeli food is always fresh, since many ingredients are grown locally. The seafood paella was so outstanding that we asked for a second order.
We perched on high counters, and people-watched in the lively, open space. The drink menu says it all. Go for the sangria, and end the meal with mint tea.
Day 3 was a treat: fine dining at Herbert Samuel, run by top chef Jonathan Roshfeld. I later found out the restaurant is kosher, but that didn’t at all limit the flavors in dishes such as turbot (above) and the signature veal cannelloni.
As for the desserts, the photo says it all. Chocolate cake, caramel sauce swirl, gold foil and vanilla ice cream. I licked the plate.
I’ve been showing you high-end restaurants, but let’s not forget the street food. I loved trying Jerusalem bagels, (during my day in Jerusalem), which are long and large. And my mouth is watering when I think of the falafel (crispy chickpea balls wrapped in pita) I got from small stands.
If I had to name one favorite restaurant among these winners, it would be Machneyuda in Jerusalem. The space is bursting with energy and personality. Between taking our orders, the waiters danced to upbeat Lana del Ray and Prince covers!
The food also has a personal touch, using ingredients from the next-door market. Some surprises included lamb and hummus, ceviche, and tomato cauliflower salad. I’m still thinking of this trio of desserts: tiramisu at the top, an incredible deconstructed cheesecake with berries in the middle, and “Uri’s mother’s semolina cake” dotted with tahini ice cream at the bottom.
If you think that Jerusalem is a serious, religious place… think again. At night, Machaneyuda has a happening bar scene with acrobatic cocktail mixing.
The open kitchen bursts with friendly calls between the chefs, and flaming dishes.
Outside, we saw locals hanging out in the streets, and going from bar to bar. If you visit only one restaurant while in Israel, I hope it will be this one.
However, we ate so well on every night. We joined Louise Kahn (glam singer of Terry Poison) at Boya, a top-rated restaurant at the Tel Aviv port. This is great place to take a walk, and watch big waves roll in.
By now, you must be getting a sense of what’s loved in Israel: fresh Mediterranean dishes, with a touch of the Middle East. We tried a number of pastas, fresh baked bread from the “tabun” (traditional clay oven), and lots of seafood. We agreed that one of the standouts was a grilled cauliflower appetizer.
One cannot visit Israel without trying the hummus — sometimes called the national dish. We had it multiple times, and even visited a local “hummous restaurant” where Jews and Arabs happily sat down to eat this delicious dish together.
Finally, before a night of clubbing, we chowed down at Social Club on Rothschild Boulevard. It’s an ideal location for meeting up with friends before going out, and we especially enjoyed the grilled calamari with fava beans and tahini.
Coming right up: I’ll take you inside the Israeli LGBT nightlife, including a drag queen performance!
I leave you with a flower-topped napoleon dessert, from Herbert Samuel restaurant. Did you expect Israel’s food scene to be this exciting? Have you tried hummus, falafel, or other dishes mentioned in this post?
PS: don’t forget, I’ll be in LA with Seby for Oscars celebrations — previews will be on my @lacarmina social networks.