Tag Archives: kosher israel

Enjoying a wonderful lunch at Rendezvous in Neve Tzedek

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Rendezvous

The trend of kosher restaurants opening up in Tel Aviv is a marvelous thing. 10 years ago you were maybe able to find a kosher falafel stand or a very fancy gourmet restaurant. That isn’t the case today. Everywhere you turn, you can find somewhere kosher to eat, milk or meat.

captureThe trend has now hit the art-deco neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, in the city center, by the Shalom tower. The restaurant I visited (I was a guest) is called Rendezvous (Kosher Rabbanut Tel Aviv), an Italian restaurant, run by French chefs. The restaurant took over for the Italian House restaurant that has been there for a very long time and was not kosher.

img_20161222_134014When walking into the restaurant, you feel like you are taken back to your grandparents house; beige wallpapers, big mirror with big frames, old-fashioned couches a very comfortable environment. The wait staff was super nice and polite, and made me feel even more comfortable.

Onto the food. Since I was a guest(I wasn’t alone, I was with 3 other guests), I asked the host to bring out some really unique dishes that I won’t find in every dairy\Italian restaurant. For the appetizers, the chef sent out an endive salad, with a crostini with melted Camembert cheese, An eggplant cream dish topped with a tomato salsa and cornishons, and for something hot,  mushrooms sautéed in a cream sauce on a piece of toasted brioche. Let’s go one by one. The mushrooms blew me away! The cream sauce had a hint of truffle
img_20161222_141212oil in it and it just blew my mind and the brioche was perfect for mopping up the sauce. The eggplant cream dish was a nice dip, smoky and salty, the way a dish should be. The salad was very refreshing and very french with blue cheese hidden in the endive leaves, although the salad was nice, the crostini with the img_20161222_141332melted Camembert was my favorite part of the salad. Who doesn’t love  grilled cheese?

Then I brought a dish that was on the specials menu, a salmon sashimi with a side salad. It was a very delicate dish, very light and very good.

Then for the main course, the chef sent out, a truffle and img_20161222_141429porcini mushroom parpadelle, pizza tortofu, a red drum fish with mashed potatoes and a tomato salsa and one last dish of salmon fillet also served on a bed of mashed potatoes.

I’ll start with the pizza since it was very interesting. I wouldn’t have called it a pizza, it was more like a quesadilla because the dough was super thin and soft. The toppings were interesting too; asparagus, arugula, truffle oil, béchamel, Parmesan, and a runny egg. It wasn’t my favorite and could have used more cheese. Then I tried the parpadelle which was sadly missing seasoning and a img_20161222_141556-1mushroom flavor. The handmade pasta was very nice and al dente but the flavors in the sauce weren’t there. The fish dishes were on point. The red drum fish was cooked perfectly, flaky seasoned well and melted in my mouth. The same for the salmon, cooked to perfection, full of flavor, and a crispy skin for texture. The mashed potatoes were super creamy and full of flavor and weren’t runny at all.  We didn’t have dessert because we were already busting at the seams, but they looked delicious!

For a new restaurant, the food was very good, great service and a very nice ambiance. Rendezvous is a great addition to the beautiful Neve Tzedek neighborhood and to the kosher food world.

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A unique Tasters Dinner at ANNA in the Ticho House

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ANNA (kosher Rabbanut Yerushalaim)

15133711_10153940518051366_1270364039_o-1I was blessed with the opportunity to meet some amazing travel bloggers, through TBEX, that are hosting one of their conferences here in Israel during the month of  March. I was invited to 15065003_10153940517906366_1639560144_o-1mingle with the group that have come for the first time to Israel, and get to know some of these amazing bloggers. I myself am more of a food blogger, but I do write about travel, mainly in Israel15134123_10153940517626366_462812988_o (theculturetrip.com, TBEXcon.com) so I didn’t feel out-of-place.

After the meet-up at
the Abraham Hostel we walked over to ANNA the new Italian restaurant in the Ticho House. We 15102191_10153940517971366_1827888837_owere a group of 10 local and international bloggers, but the hostess wasn’t nervous at all.  I learned there, that what goes on in the kitchen is much more than cooking. The restaurant is home to kids from broken homes and by cooking they keep them out of trouble, and give them an amazing opportunity to learn from head chef Nimrod Norman. Chef Norman was a chef in the infamous Machne 15134124_10153940517976366_670917137_o-1Yehuda restaurant for many years and was the head chef at Yudaleh, which is the bar owned by Machne Yehuda. Before I sat down I was already excited.
Since we were a large group we were offered whatever the chef sent out, basically a taster menu. We started off with the house foccacia bread with a dip that had olive oil, balsamic 15102198_10153940517326366_991883872_ovinegar, garlic confit and chili peppers. Then they gave us bread sticks to also go with the dip. Both types of bread were super fresh and delicious. Then they brought out some starters. They brought out a massive chunk of fresh goat cheese in two sauces, they brought out a Caprese salad, a crudo dish and salmon carpaccio. The goat cheese was a great sharing dish and went well with the foccacia bread. The Caprese had 15133940_10153940517596366_1060472640_o3 types of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and a beautiful balsamic glaze that brought the whole dish together. The krudo was very interesting, but tasted great. The fish was cured nicely and the olive oil and tomato was a nice finishing touch. The salmon carpaccio was also a home run, had a purple hue meaning it was cured with beets and again with the olive oil, it was a perfect appetizer.  I almost forgot, they 15102311_10153940517271366_676597297_oalso served us a baked kohlrabi dish with fresh mozzarella and a tomato sauce which was a nice and healthy starter!

The on came the main courses. Two types of pizza a margarita and a pizza Bianca, an endive salad and their homemade gnocchi. I think they thought they were feeding 100 people because they piled on the mains. The pizza margarita was probably the best pizza I have 15045447_10153940517191366_550415649_o-1had in Israel. The thin crust, sauce to cheese ratio was perfect! The Bianca pizza was good, but not as good as the margarita.  I can’t say enough about the gnocchi. The Italians in the group said that the gnocchi in ANNA is better than in Italy, and it was amazing! The gnocchi were so light and fluffy, I could have sat there and just eaten 10 plates of the gnocchi! The endive salad was 15065000_10153940516811366_1138397234_o-1beautiful with the blue cheese and the vinaigrette, a perfect combo to make an amazing salad.  If we weren’t full by then, which we thought the meal was over, then came out a pot of sea bass on a bed of risotto(off the menu)! Are you kidding me?! It was some of the best fish I’ve had in a restaurant ever. The risotto was the same, super creamy with a crunch from asparagus and other 15146659_10153940516806366_129692302_ovegetables, I was ready to go into a food coma!!!

Then came dessert, we couldn’t believe it! They brought out 3 types of dessert and each one was just better than the other!  First was a classic Italian tiramisu. I’m not a coffee and rum guy, but it still tasted great, not too sweet and not overpowered by the coffee. Then was a sticky toffee pudding (Off the menu) covered in almonds and pistachio ice cream. If you have never had sticky toffee pudding before, it’s very impressive and very interesting. But the best out of all three was the chocolate cremeux. Layers of chocolate goodness topped with a dulce de leche cream, it was as I called it “death by chocolate” dessert. One of the best desserts I have ever tasted in a restaurant, period.

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When we were barely finished the chef came out and got a standing ovation, because he really deserved it. He was also super nice and a mench too! The experience I had witnessed (and survived) at ANNA had been just amazing! I would even say it is one of the best kosher restaurants in Israel, hands down, definitely in my top five. I really enjoyed being a guest at ANNA and I will definitely go back and try new things off the menu!

 

 

 

A local Neighborhood favorite in Malcha: Cafe Avichail

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Cafe Avichail

20161027_120956In almost every sitcom you will find the hero’s of the show sitting down somewhere in a local coffee shop or restaurant that the show focuses on. On this occasion, there is no sitcom, but a great neighborhood cafe (Kosher Rabbanute Mehadrin Jerusalem). Cafe Avichayil is located in the center of the Malcha neighborhood (not where the mall is, it’s located in the actual neighborhood) and it has caught the attention of other Jerusalemites and not only the local neighbors.

20161027_122428With that said, there is plenty of parking around the corner, and the place is pretty big. We happened to have noticed that they set up an area for families to eat, with a chalk wall and toys for the kids to play with, very original. We sat down and had a look at the menu, and I liked the way the menu was laid out, every dish had the right category and there was no BS. There were a couple of dishes that caught my eye, for example the Arancini on a roza sauce. I’m an arancini freak, so I ordered that for our appetizer to share. Then in the main courses section, there was an Italian section, salads and fish. What intrigued me was the radiator pasta, I didn’t even know a shape of pasta like 20161027_123341that existed, so we ordered that and then in the fish section we wanted to try the salmon burger, but they were sold out, so we went with the Asian haloumi salad.

The arancini came out piping hot with the steam still coming off the crispy outside, that was golden brown. To cool it off split one of my aranchini in half and the cheese started oozing out, a great sign for a perfectly cooked risotto ball. Once it cooled down and we tasted it,  it was just as delicious as it looked.

Moving on to the main course, the shape of the pasta was awesome. I forget to mention that all the pasta was handmade and it makes all the difference. The sauce needed a bit of salt otherwise it was cooked perfectly al dente and was a great dish. The salad came out hot with a lot going on in one bowl; sweet potatoes, lettuce, peanuts, sprouts, 20161027_123236cheese. A very busy salad, but once you took a bite, every component complimented the next.  It was a great salad that was just as it described, sweetish. We were so full we didn’t get dessert, but the pastries they offered, looked amazing.

All in all, it was a great experience, great food, great service and a great view. So If you are looking for somewhere quiet for a date or a nice dairy meal, make your way to the Malcha neighborhood and give Cafe Avichail a try.

A Middle priced gem in Jerusalem: Medita

thumbs_meditaA lot of people ask me all the time, where can I go out to eat and not have to spend a fortune? Where can I go and take a family of 5 without spending 300 shekels a person?20161026_193217

So this is what I tell everyone who asks; you have 2 options: 1. Go to any shupudia (an Israeli Steakhouse) where you can order 2 skewers with perfectly grilled meat,  fresh salads and fresh bread. The ambiance leans toward the fast food and not fine dining but you get what you pay for. By the way, I highly recommend many of these shipudias, whether it’s Grill Bar or Tzidkiyahu, because you get your value for the money. But when a family is looking for a place with a nice ambience, great 20161026_193320food and restaurant service, I recommend Medita.

Medita is the brainchild of chef Motti Ochana owner and operator of the gourmet restaurant Hechatzer(one of my favorite kosher restaurants in Israel) Chef Motti decided to open up a second location a bigger location, but with more affordable prices without compromising the quality and level that the chef brings. Nothing on the menu looks 20161026_193326cheap and is definitely not fast food. We went two couples so we ordered 2 starters and the house bread. One of the starters was a sabich salad, and the other was the pate mix with the cherry tomato jam on toast.

In a very non Israeli manner, all of the apps came out at the same time! We started with the bread and the dips, the bread was super fresh and crunchy, and had no clue what some of the dips were but they were a delight. The sabich salad was very nice with little pieces 20161026_195545of toast to accompany the boiled egg and eggplant tehini sauce mixture. There was some chili in there as well and that gave the dish a nice kick and a great way to finish it off! The pate was out of bounds, I’ve had it before in Hechatzer and it was just as good; smooth texture, sweet and savory with a perfect crunch from the toast.

For the main course I ordered a medium rare steak with a baked potato and my wife ordered the “hechatzer “short ribs. Again, all the dishes came out 20161026_195433the same time and definitely a highlight of the night. My steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare with the right amount of seasoning to make it complete. I didn’t really care for the baked potato because there was nothing special about it, no toppings or a dipping sauce to accompany it (it had a roasted cherry tomato on top, whoo hoo). The asado (short ribs) had a nice topping by adding pomegranate with scallions, it was a very very filling dish. Perfectly sweet, it’s a very heavy dish to eat alone, but it is so good!

A great location, great service, delicious food, all in all, Medita is a great middle range meat restaurant that fills out all the criteria of fine dining without making a hole in your pocket.

 

Breakfast in the Secret Garden of Beit Zayit: Derech Hagefen

logo_Derech_HagefenDerech Hagefen

20160803_100727The title of my blog post this week may sound a bit out there, but when my wife and I walked in to Derech Hagefen, we were in awe. For a moment, we felt like we were in the secret garden like right out of the movie. But lets/ take a step first and tell you where it is. Derech Hagefen (Kosher local Rabbanute) is one of two restaurants owned by the same owner and share the same concept: A combination of a green house and coffee shop\dairy restaurant. Derech Hagefen is located in Beit Zayit, a very quiet and green Moshav located at the footsteps of the Jerusalem 20160803_101055Mountains (right off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway). The other restaurant is called Cafe Itamar (review coming soon) located in Moshav Ora on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When I put the location into Waze, you really need to look for the coffee shop because most likely you will miss it like me the first time, but once you park in the parking lot and walk down the hill and get distracted by the dinosaur park you won’t miss it.

When you first walk into the restaurant, it doesn’t feel like a restaurant, 20160803_101828it feels like a nursery that you can purchase plans from. Once you are greeted by the hostess then you come back to realize, oh I’m in a restaurant. We sat down near the coy pond, and I have to mention that there is indoor and outdoor seating. On a hot summer day you can sit indoors with the A\C or sit outside where this beautiful stream of cool mist keeps you nice and cool (I can use one of those for my house!).

Now that we were comfortable and accommodated, we ordered breakfast (you can’t order off the regular menu until 12pm). My wife 20160803_101832ordered the Beit Zayit salad and I ordered the Beit Zayit breakfast which comes with a cold drink and a hot drink. While we were waiting, we noticed something funny, because the sound of the mist, you can’t hear anyone else conversation, but yours and that gave us an even more intimate experience even though we were outdoors with other diners.

Then the food comes, and let me tell you, it may be breakfast but it was impressive. The salad was huge, and came with lettuce, asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, Parmesan aioli, goat cheese and so much more. 20160803_110015Iv’e seen thousands of salads in dairy restaurants, but this one, is definitely in my top 3. The creativity and taste really elevated the experience and added another reason to return for another meal. Then comes my breakfast, and omelet with everything but the kitchen sink in it: cheese, onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, more cheese. It came with fresh-baked bread that they bake in-house and an Israeli salad that was seasoned to perfection. The other thing that I really like that they served was real butter. Yeah, real butter that is yellow and not a packet like you get in every generic coffee shop\dairy restaurant in Israel.

20160803_105955After almost filling up on the breakfast, I wanted to try one of their homemade desserts, so we tried a slice of cheesecake with a raspberry sauce. When the waiter brought it out sadly it had a hair right on top of it so I asked them to switch it. 5 minutes later they apologized and brought out an extra dessert on the house, for the inconvenience. They brought out a tiramisu and if you are a coffee lover, you will fall in love with this dessert. Then we dug into the cheesecake, which was divine. It really needed that sweet sauce to complement the sour taste of the cheese, it was the perfect balance.

From the service which was amazing, to the ambiance, to the food, the decor, the whole experience at Derech Hagefen was amazing. If you have never been or coming to Israel to visit, or looking for a unique place to go out to eat, you must try Derech Hagefen!

 

 

 

 

 

Eating legit Turkish Shwarma in Tel Aviv: Turk Lachmaj’un

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Turk Lachmaj’un

20160731_123658WOW, when I left, Turk Lachmaj’un I was impressed. I mean it’s known that the two most common street foods in Israel are falafel and shwarma, but the way they do things at Turk Lachmaj’un really take it to the next level. I want to thank my friend Mitch Schnieder for introducing me to this place because I KNOW I’m going to head back there.

Turk Lachmaj’un (Kosher Rabbanute Tel Aviv) has been around for a while, and their standards have stayed the same since day 1. For those 20160731_121912of you who don’t know what a lachmaj’un is, (here comes the culinary tidbit) it’s a loaf of bread baked with any type of meat inside. The dish hails from Turkey, and has become a very popular dish in restaurants around Israel. Traditionally it’s baked with lamb, but those who can’t afford it will use beef or any other meat they fancy. Traditionally it’s served with techina, but you can enjoy it with any dip you like.

Now to the restaurant. I call it a restaurant because it really  is. You have an option to either eat a shwarma to go and have them wrap up 20160731_115844your meal in a laffa or lachmaj’un or to sit down and enjoy the full experience where they bring you salads to your table and you eat with a fork and knife. I chose the first option, and it was perfect! A little more about the restaurant, show up early or you will be waiting a long time to enjoy an amazing meal because the place is packed during the lunch rush. Most of the food is made in-house from the salads to the fries, I don’t know if the meat is prepared there but I know that each lachmaj’un is made in the stone oven that they hide in the corner. Now I need to break down the lacmaj’un process for you: They bake each lachmaj’un fresh to order. the lachmaj’un is prepared like this: they bake the meat and spices into and open-faced type of laffa bread and then when it comes out of the oven, they fill it with more meat!If you aren’t already drooling, here comes the fun part, I chose lamb all the way through, then he put in the fillings that were so fresh, from the techina dripping through, pickled onions, and I don’t even remember what else the guy put in, but it made it a perfect bite! The lamb was super moist and full of flavor and you can taste the lamb all the way through because it’s baked into the bread! The fries were a bit soggy because sadly Israelis don’t believe in a double fry french fry (pomme frites) but everything else was just perfect.

Turk Lachmaj’un is one of the best shwarmas I have had in Israel, definitely in my top 5 in Israel. So if you find yourself in the Nachalat Binyamin area of central Tel Aviv, come by foot, because there’s almost no parking and get on line for some of the best shwarma, Tel Aviv has to offer.

 

Last stop at the First Train Station in Jerusalem: Station 9

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Station 9

IMG_20150701_205822For those of you who are not from the Jerusalem area, you should know that the days of Emek Refaiim are over and the day of the First Train Station has begun. The Station holds many restaurants and an open market every weekend. The Station has gained popularity with all crowds , because there’s plenty of parking, all the main bus lines pass by, and has a great atmosphere. My favorite restaurant that has been open from day one at the train station so far, is Station 9(Rabbanute Yerushalyim).

Station 9 is probably the best kosher Asian fusion restaurant in Israel. It’s a fusion restaurant like almost every other kosher type of Asian cuisine restaurant (River, Deck’s, Sushi Rechavia just to name some) because almost no one doing authentic Asian food by country except the Chinese Wall (Hachoma HaSinit) in Tel AvivIMG_20150701_204909(review to come) who make legit and authentic Chinese food. It’s all a mix of flavors that the Israeli’s like mainly stir fries. Very depressing, but it is what it is, thank goodness that Station 9 makes amazing food.

The menu has a wide variety of appetizers starting with soups, salads and small meat and chicken dishes. But two appetizers stand out on the menu that you almost can’t find anywhere: Bau Bau sliders and potstickers.  For those of you who don’t know what those are let me describe is to you. A Bau bun is a unique steamed bun that hails out of China. It has a very soft and chewy texture that you can only get out of a steamed bun. A potsticker is a fried dumpling made by hand that is usually filled with a protein. A non fried dumpling is galled a gioza and is customary steamed with the same type of filling as a potsticker.

IMG_20150701_210429Now that the cooking lesson is over, let’s get to what me and my friends ordered. We were 4 people so we ordered 3 appetizers, and 3 mains. We didn’t order a dessert because we were stuffed by then, and here’s why. For the appetizers we ordered 4 Bau Bau sliders, 2 filled with pulled short ribs(asado), 1 duck and 1 hamburger. For the 3rd appetizer we ordered potstickers(giozas) because, I had to try it!  The food came out pretty fast, and the presentation was very nice. The Bau Bau came with a chipotle, cilantro and chili oily inside, and the potstickers(giozas) were filled with chicken and came with a soy and sesame dipping sauce. The Bau Bau were extraordinarily  delicious, ranking the best was the duck then the short ribs and the burger last. They were all tasteful and well prepared, but the duck was definitely the best. Moving on to the giozas (potstickers) they were also surprisingly delightful. The filling was seasoned perfectly and the soy dipping sauce only elevated the dish.

IMG_20150701_210139Moving on to the main courses, we ordered a stir fry, the Pad Khing and 2 of the Japanese spare ribs. Again, we didn’t wait long for the mains to come, and wow was I surprised. The spare ribs were huge! They also came with a side of white rice and fresh broccoli, which added a nice touch. Luckily, all 4 of us ordered the spare ribs to share with their spouse because they were that big. The spare ribs are slow cooked and then finished in the deep fryer to give it a nice crunchy beefy exterior. The ribs were a bit tough, but the flavor was all there, and the sides were a very nice compliment. The Pad Khing was also superb, the flat rice noodles really sopped up the sauce, the beef was tender ad the sauce was really what brought the dish home.

The spare ribs were so big, it really filled us up and we couldn’t order a dessert, but next time we go we’ll see what happens.

Station 9 is a great culinary experience and definitely one of the best kosher restaurants in the city. Since they have become so popular the prices are a bit high, but if you go before 5, you will get a 20% discount off the entire menu. If you find yourself in Jerusalem and looking for a great Asian style restaurant, go and try Station 9.