Did you know that 95 percent of the restaurants in Tel Aviv are NOT Kosher?
On my recent trip there, local tour guide Doron Ozer took me and my travel companions a little jaunt through the quaint and funky neighborhood of Neve Tzedek. Located in the southwestern part of the city, the neighborhood had been going through a process of urban decay as Tel Aviv grew up around it, despite being the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls of the ancient port of Jaffa.
Today, the neighborhood has gone through a rebirth, and is somewhat like the Soho of Tel Aviv, filled with vibrant coffee shops, gourmet restaurants, art galleries, fashionable stores, and expensive flats, while still keeping it’s village-like community vibe.
While exploring Neve Tzedek and Tel Aviv, we visited many hot dining spots, new and older, and it was clear that Doron Ozer knows his food in Israel! Here’s his list of the five best restaurants in Tel Aviv. All have delicious food, interesting wines, and a festive, romantic, or swanky atmosphere.
Note: Tel Aviv is famous for its nightlife, so keep that in mind if making a reservation or deciding on dinner time. No one – I mean, absolutely no one other than foreign tourists – eats at 6 or 7 pm. Make your reservations for 9 or 10 pm to ensure a lively dining experience.
A little pampering that connects new with old and combines complex flavors in a contemporary setting. The name “Dallal” literally means “pamper,” and this restaurant delivers. It seems to appear out of nowhere and with the gentle lighting and greenery throughout the space and long mahogany wood bar, you can’t help but enjoy the dining experience.
The fact that the food is delicious too is just a bonus. There’s a variety of dishes, all inspired using local fresh produce with a Mediterranean flair, and influenced by its funky Neve Tzedek location, at the hands of Chef Golan Garfunkel.
The contemporary update of the Tel Aviv classic Catit, this is hot chef Meir Adoni’s latest venue and has quickly become THE place to be with its frequent celebrity visitors (supermodel Bar Refaeli and Israeli TV personality Assi Azar) and trendy clientele. While the menu is limited, the richness in flavor and elegance in the dishes are out of this world.
People say you can judge a restaurant by its bread, and in this case, Mizlala would take the prize with its white sourdough with coriander seeds or the “kubaneh” bread with crushed grilled tomatoes and hot green peppers. There’s a clear middle eastern flair in the food, but Asian influences are also apparent in dishes such as the fish kebab with eggplant and goat cheese cream, grilled vegetables, ginger and a chili vinaigrette. Their pasta dishes are interesting as well with items linguini in butter, sage and garlic sauce served with white asparagus, brioche crumbs and a tempura-fried poached egg!
Dixie opened nearly two decades ago as a “Manhattan style” steak house and over the years has expanded their traditional dishes to include more innovative, seasonal cuisine. And no one’s complaining!
At first, they changed their menu three times a year to highlight the season’s best produce and flavors, while maintaining a level of quality that keeps regulars returning again and again. But some years ago, Dixie became the first restaurant in Israel to introduce the concept of 24/7. This means they have four different menus created by Chef Dan Crettela, that changes every few hours to best meet the needs of their customers. The mahogany décor, wooden tables, hopping bar, extensive wine list, and intimate space makes them consistently one of Tel Aviv’s best.
Carmella is a classy place, not just for the food which chef and owner Daniel Zach (Sussenbach) insists doesn’t play into current trends, but also for its picturesque location in one of Nachlat Binyamin Street’s most beautiful buildings.
The architectural stunner is an ancient structure called “Beit Amudim” that was restored with meticulous design and unique design elements like arches and columns, hanging plants, and hand-drawn tiles throughout the entrance and dining rooms.
The food is Mediterranean and focuses mainly on fresh fish, seafood, green salads and unique roasts, but there is a wide selection of other dishes.
Located in a 129-year-old restored building that once belonged to a Turkish Sheik, Kimmel features rustic delicacies like cheeses, meat and fish in rich sauces, herbs, cream and olive oil. The comprehensive wine and cocktails menu ups the ante.
The earthy food (try the house bread flavored with zataar spices, dill, lemon, garlic and served with sauces like fig and honey or wild berry and pepper) is enhanced by the relaxing, rustic décor with its authentic country style design, natural trees, unique serving dishes and tableware.
Bold palettes should try the mushrooms stuffed with gooseliver in plum-and-fig sauce, and for a main course, the ostrich filet in curry, lemon, and garlic. A variety of less extravagant, but equally delicious dishes are also on the menu.
About the Author: Lindsay Taub is an award-winning journalist with over a decade of experience as a writer/editor/photographer covering travel, lifestyle, culture, arts, food, health, and all facets that make life a journey. Follow her on twitter @lindsaytaub58.