Having been visiting Israel since a young child, I have experienced the food scene undergo considerable changes.
Back in the day, falafel shops were prevalent, as well as other regional dishes such as pitta, humous and shawarma. Like most countries in recent years, however, there has been a structural change for the better. Blessed with some of the finest natural produce as well as a diverse set of citizens, modern Israeli food has been borne.
As Ottolenghi was making his mark in the UK, on home turf, Israel started springing its own stars.
Eyal Shani opened Abraxas North, featuring the likes of roasted cauliflower, some time before it was trendy, no plates and dining at the bar, overlooking the open kitchen.
In fact, bar dining is seriously popular in Israel, often being the most desirable of all seats in the house.
Shani went on to open the very trendy Hasalon, in an offbeat location with high energy atmosphere – be sure to book the later sitting as inevitably there will be dancing and a grand finale of setting sage and herbs alight over the kitchen counter, creating a spectacle.
Downtown, Shani operates a gourmet pita bar called Miznon, redefining grab and go.
One of the most upscale restaurants is in the old north, close to the sea. Named Shila’s Kitchen, it is operated by Sharon Cohen and frequented by an upmarket clientele. Again, there is bar dining as well as some brilliantly executed dishes, including zucchini carpaccio and a wonderful pasta and fish dish to name a few.
On Rothchild Boulevard, Sharon also owns Europa, which is an inside-outside garden restaurant with an extensive menu of sharing plates, all of which are a cut above what you would normally expect from this casual setting.
Also on Rothchild is Shulchan (table), operated by owner Omer Miller and featuring grilled fish with olives and tomatoes, hanger steak and, if you’re still hungry, the Shulchan desert.
Other fantastic Tel Aviv venues include Kitchen table, Port Said, Social, David and Yossef and Onza.
An overview wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the famous Machneyuda, named after the fantastic sprawling food market in Jerusalem which it sits alongside. Delicious and playful, with signature dishes such as polenta with asparagus and mushrooms, this stands out day or night, excelling always.
In fact, Machneyuda has been so successful the owners partnered with Layo and Zoe Paskin of London to open Palomar to great acclaim in London, showcasing the essence of modern Israeli food in the heart of Soho.
And there are more to come as we are currently working with a number of Israeli restaurants looking to make their mark in London, so watch this space.