Tel Aviv redefines kosher chic.
By Monica Haim
You might find some of the answers to your questions about Kashrut in Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, but it’s in the
local Tel Aviv papers that you’ll hear about the hot spots in town that transform the laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy into an upscale
celebration of creative gastronomy. Gone are the days of offensive parve substitutes and dry steaks, and in their place exist a wide range of chefs and restaurateurs who are as devoted to their patrons and critics as they are to their Lord.
Appropriately enough, this new era of kosher gourmet simmers with creativity and vision in its cosmopolitan urban center, Tel Aviv, where the kosher culinary scene not only deconstructs the negative stigma of kosher food, but also stands to compete with some of the best chefs and restaurants in the world. Modern manna, if you will.
People say Israel is full of surprises, and a meal at Deca is certainly that. This über-sophisticated restaurant, which is ironically nestled smack in the middle of the gritty and industrial Hataasia Street, completely flips any preconception of kosher on its head. The true magic of the place lies in the perfect synergy between the actual space, chef Tom Kabalo’s creative fusion of flavors, and the breathtaking aesthetic of the plating and presentation. The moment you walk into Deca you know you are about to embark on some kind of enchanted journey of the senses, which begins with the restaurant’s décor, whose signature is an intricate formation of white terracotta lattice work that wraps throughout the entire space and also serves to creates private areas within it. Welcome to the divine possibility of crustacean-less bouillabaisse, a fish broth that is both delectable and delicate with infusions of cilantro and orange. Kabalo creates silk-like sashimi dishes as appetizers and pairs them with something quintessentially Mediterranean, such as fresh goat’s milk yogurt. You should definitely consider his grilled vegetable skewers served with three different kinds of cheeses, date honey and pecans; as well as the fish kebabs, which he serves with tehini and chipotle vinaigrette over a red lentil salad.
If you happen to be an observant carnivore, get on over to Goshen, which is not necessarily Glatt Kosher, but is approved by the Rabanut of the city of Tel Aviv (and for that reason is not open on Shabbat). Located on the charming and historic street of Nahalat Benyamin,
Goshen stands out as a modern classic, with a clean, almost masculine interior that is nicely offset by the dark oak wood furniture. The space is at once cozy and comfortable, an ideal setting for that juicy steak you’ve been craving all week. The various cuts, from lamb chops to entrecote are offered in sizes from 300gr all the way to a full kilo, and all the meat is aged on-site. You’ll swoon when the waiter appears from the kitchen with a tray holding votive candles and featuring the sizzling skillet on which your meat will be grilled. Chef Ben Abitbol is a master of flavor, and employs a minimalist approach to seasoning that allows his meats’ flavors speak for themselves.
People say Israel is full of surprises, and a meal at Deca is certainly that.
In the bohemian neighborhood of Florentine, there is the darling and delightful Café Adar, co-owned by Eitan Guryon, David Malach and Adir Sharon. This is one of the city’s newest little gems, whose vibration and aesthetic fuses hip with homey in a Euro-style atmosphere that radiates a warm, vintage charm. Café Adar is the perfect place for a small bite, a chilled glass of cava, or a cup of tea poured into beautiful china, and everything is served with a sweet and personal touch. One of the café’s many lovely attributes is the fact that there are completely different areas in which to properly schmooze. Red and white gingham tablecloths cover the tables that are set in the outside area, which feels like a magical hidden corner tucked away somewhere in Florence or Rome. Once inside, take the spiral staircase up to the second floor, which feels like the living room of someone quintessentially cool, with funky retro
furniture, randomly framed photographs of Julio Iglesias, lacy curtains, old-school telephones, lamps and television sets, and an
assembly of chairs that each seems to have its very own personality. Co-owner Eitan Guryon takes his culinary cues directly from his childhood, with an offering of small plates that evoke memories of recipes that his own father made for him. A Café Adar staple, for example, is a plate of warm lentils served over tahini and finished with chopped egg and onion; but just as nice is their plate of fresh raw vegetables that also comes with tahini and labne (yogurt cheese) and affirms the notion that Israelis have perfected the art of
This current movement of creative kosher cuisine brings with it all varieties of culinary possibilities and deconstructs the age-old conviction that “kosher” and “gourmet” are mutually exclusive. It not only broadens the spectrum for the observant among us, who shouldn’t be excluded from the high art of fine dining, but it also invites kosher food chefs and restaurateurs to partake of the
gastronomical dialogue that Israel is known for. After all, someone has to put the chic in the chicken soup.