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By Rhonda J Spivak, B.A., L.L.B.

The city of Tel-Aviv has become a “culinary superpower,” a  city where a unique culinary culture has blossomed says Master Chef of the Dan Panarama Hotel, Miki Nir. 

Between the falafel stands and gourmet restaurants, as well as the large spectrum of, French, North African, Italian, Persian, Chinese, East European ,Meat and Seafood restaurants, Tel-Aviv has become a top gastronomic destination.

Nir,  who has been working at the Dan Panorama for 17 years, says that the food he serves has adapted over time.  “We used to serve a lot of  Jewish food, with Eastern European flavours.  But now, there is less of that and more Middle Eastern dishes, with distinctly Israeli touches.  We are taking the recipe’s that are mothers made at home and are adapting them to new gourmet standards.”

According to Nir, Tel-Aviv’s food standards have had to cater to the increased number of international tourists. As he says, “Tourism has been exploding in the last year in Tel-Aviv and elsewhere in the county. The Dan Panorama is completely full all the time, and  the situation is the same for all the other hotels along the beach strip.  You can no longer just book a room for a night, a seven day minimum is required.  We anticipate that it will be the same throughout the spring and summer. We’ve noticed a real increase in the numbers of  business travelers.  When it comes to food, the business traveler wants a high level of professionalism and service,” says Nir.

 Nir says he makes it his business to go to all of Tel-Aviv’s upscale gourmet restaurants to sample the offerings of other well-known chefs.  “There has been a real development in the genre of gourmet food in Tel-Aviv in the last few years,” says Nir.  Top restaurants in this genre focus on super-fresh locally grown vegetables and chefs create superb seasonal dishes based on some of the highest quality of ingredients from the market, such as okra, Jerusalem artichoke, green beans, ful and leeks.

“The chefs are using French techniques with local Israeli, Middle Eastern,or Arab touches” says Nir.   Prices at these gourmet restaurants range from “expensive “ to “very  expensive” to “very very expensive.”  Four gourmet restaurants that he recommends ( in addition  “of course” to the restaurants at the Dan Panorama) are Cordelia (under chef Nir Zook) in Jaffa, Rafael’s under chef Rafi Cohen,  Moul Hayam, at  Tel Aviv’s port,  and Roshfeld, a delightful bistro. All are known for their innovative and exacting chefs and also for their attention to detail and professional service.

“But the best restaurant in all of Israel is Tel-Aviv’s Katit, says Nir confidently. “It’s three  or  for  years old, it is nouveau kitchen, and is known for it’s combination of taste.  But, it is Yakar me’od me’od (very very expensive)

Nir says that the culinary culture in Tel-Aviv is being influenced by the fact that in  the last few years  there has been a wave of French Jews who have  immigrated toIsrael, and many who have bought second homes in Israel.  More restaurants with French cuisine, or influenced by it can be found today in Tel- Aviv, and more patisseries have popped up in the Sharon area in general

Avi Slama, who owns “La Mer” restaurant  on Tel-Aviv’s  main beach strip
has a lot of French dishes (such as salade nicoise) that cater to French tourists.  “Even through the second intifada, business was O.K. because the French tourists kept coming,” he says.

Chef Roman Elazarov, who was trained by Nir and also works at the Dan Panorama,  says, “In Tel-Aviv the food is best in the summer, when there is so much fresh fruit and vegetables available.”

Elazarov, who has a young family prefers the “Steakiyot” of Tel-Aviv, restaurants
which  focus on grilled meats, humus and fresh vegetable salads. One of his favourites is Yitzhak HaGadol”, in Jaffa.  “People stand in line to wait for the food, and it’s expensive, but they are willing to pay.”

 Elazorov , who also does private catering, also  likes to take his family to ‘Pinat Hashlosha,” in nearby Rishon Letzion, which he says is a “very authentic” Middle Eastern restaurant, that is also affordable.

“Everyone in the food industry is excited about the prospects for the upcoming months. Already this year has been one of the most successful years ever for tourism. We are preparing for a big wave of tourists who will come to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday in the spring,  and expect there to be lots of tourists this summer,”  says Elazarov.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.