Gone are the days when Israelis lived by hummus and falafel alone. Over the past few decades, Israel has grown into one of the world’s cuisine frontrunners.
If you’d like to embark on your Middle Eastern and Mediterranean gastronomic adventure, it’s logical to go to Israel as your starting point. After all, a significant portion of Israel’s population are immigrants who have come to the country from around the world. Relatively recently, authentic local cooking traditions cross paths with recipes from other cultures as well as modern food trends, melding into a fusion cuisine that Israel has become known for.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s second largest city, has become the country’s food capital. With world-class restaurants of dizzying variety and its advantageous position on the Mediterranean coast, it is not hard to see why Tel Aviv enjoys such distinction.
Numerous restaurants dot every nook and cranny of this gorgeous city, offering authentic local Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine as well as fusions of other cuisines, each in a more creative and exotic way. Anything and everything can be found there, from the traditional flavors to the modern menu trendsetters, kosher and non-kosher. Hummus is no longer regarded as a lowly Middle Eastern fare – watch it being elevated as the star of every discriminating diner’s plate, especially in Tel Aviv.
Are you craving for mean cheeseburgers? Are you a fan of sushi? Are you in the mood for some romantic Italian dinner? Or are you looking for an adventurous and exciting culinary fusion? You’re in luck! You can also find cuisines that combine local Jaffan and international ingredients, bringing a either a harmony or explosion flavors that will excite your palate.
And with the increasing consciousness towards dietary choices and emphasis on using only fresh and seasonal ingredients, Tel Aviv is worth exploring.
The Vegan Capital of the World
Are you looking for healthy but delicious options? Or are you in a strict vegetarian or vegan diet? Well, you’ll never go wrong with Tel Aviv. The city is officially recognized as the “Vegan Capital of the World.” It has more than 400 vegetarian or vegan-friendly restaurants across the city that cater to the gastronomical needs of over 200,000 vegetarians or vegans living in the country.
So, how did Tel Aviv achieve such distinction?
It’s all about the vegan boom! According to reports, the number of vegans has significantly increased in the last six to eight years. In fact, Israel’s tourism department also wants to promote the country as a “Vegan Nation,” with Tel Aviv as its vegan hub. We already know that the two most popular food combinations in the world, falafel and hummus, happen to be the staples of Israeli cuisine. They are also completely vegan.
As a country, Israel is considered as quite liberal and flexible in its approach, so it’s hardly surprising that changes happen here a lot faster than any other country. A number of well-known food bloggers and chefs say that it was a bold move for a Middle Eastern country like Israel where food tourism is highly dependent on meats, seafood and any other edible animal matter. Thankfully, though, there are many people that welcome those changes in a positive manner.
“Bland” and “tasteless” are the usual words to describe vegetarian and vegan food. But not in Tel Aviv! Vegetarian and vegan dishes are prepared and cooked in a creative way to bring a heady and exciting combination of flavors. So it is not a big surprise that Tel Aviv’s delectable vegetarian and vegan dishes are a craze even among hard-core carnivores!
For instance – the Georgian dumplings khinkali served at many Tel Aviv restaurants are stuffed with minced mushrooms, squash, potatoes and eggplants. Even meat eaters swear that these dumplings are the best they have tried just yet!
Where to eat in Tel Aviv?
With several good places to eat Tel Aviv, it can be difficult to know how to narrow down your options. But here are the few good suggestions to start your Tel Aviv food crawl. After that, it’s up to you where your next foodie stop is.
Address: Mendele Mokher Sfarim Street 5
This fine-dining restaurant consistently ranks among Israel’s best restaurants. It offers a fare that combines the best of Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisines. To create the perfect meal, chef Yossi Shitrit perfectly executes cutting-edge cooking techniques while using ingredients that come fresh from the wharves and the busy markets of the city. Ideally, make a reservation for a weekend brunch for a surprisingly great value. For just under a hundred shekels, treat yourself to an elegant, all-you-can-eat feast complete with every type of fish, cheese and freshly baked breads you could ever dream of.
Address: Menachem Begin 23
Local star chef Yuval Ben Neriah never fails to surprise his guests with his signature cuisine, “Asiaterranean,” which combines Southeast Asian flavors with the freshness of local ingredients. The result is a win: dumplings stuffed with shrimp and Jerusalem artichokes or steak infused with Vietnamese spices.
Address: Har Sinai Street 5
A trendy gastro-bar run by celebrity chef Eyal Shani is also a popular hangout among Tel Aviv yuppies and hipsters. The menu, which changes daily, includes generous portions of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. It also showcases simple ingredients, elevating them into something a bit more complex. These include dishes such as whole-roasted cauliflower and masabaha (the chunkier version of hummus) served alongside lima beans and pungent peppers.
Address: Sderot Sha’ul HaMelech 27
Located just beneath Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Pastel was once named the world’s most beautiful restaurant. It still delights the eye – and even more so the taste buds. The restaurant still has the markings of an upmarket brasserie, for the exception of its striking geometrically designed ceiling that “billows” and dances with light. Once you are wowed by the restaurant’s architectural wonders, the Mediterranean-inspired menu created by head chef Hikel Tavakoli will be the next thing that will blow you away. Their black linguine with seafood and okra and delectable slices of tuna sashimi with curry vinaigrette are just two of the several chefs-d’oeuvre to choose from.