Ball games to beat the French

London is not the only European destination for young Israeli chefs - they are also cooking up a storm in Paris

By Margaret J Kemp, June 20, 2014
Miniatures' Jerusalem artichoke soup with hazelnut butter and black truffle foam

Miniatures' Jerusalem artichoke soup with hazelnut butter and black truffle foam

In Paris, talented young Israeli chefs are winning rave reviews with their daring, delicious, new wave Israeli-influenced cuisine - from hip, hand eaten, street food to classy gastronomic dining.

Wearing the whites at Bat, (Bar A Tapas) a trendy Right-Bank canteen, is Israeli chef Yariv Berreby.

"I fell under the spell of French cuisine when I worked washing dishes in Tel Aviv during school vacations," he says.

After three years' military service, Berreby followed his dream, came to Paris and graduated from the prestigious Ferrandi Culinary School.

He then sharpened his knives in the kitchens of French super-chefs, Alain Senderens and Yannick Alleno and helped to launch KGB - the cutting-edge Left-Bank bistro.

Jeremiah Kanza (left) and Salome Vidal

Jeremiah Kanza (left) and Salome Vidal

"I'm a travelling man. Before launching Bat I was in Asia, USA and Europe, soaking up the scene, meeting chefs, brainstorming ideas, tasting."

His menu features tartar of sea-bream, crispy skinned grilled guinea fowl, shell pasta, shallot confit and chutney tandoori.

"I like to surprise, playing with savours and flavours," he explains.

At Bat all the cooking takes place at a U-shaped central bar, around which customers sit.

"Yariv's work is bright, exciting, precise, without being complex. It's food you'd eat in the hip happening bistros of Tel Aviv," says top French gastro critic Gilles Pudlowski.

Another concept is Balls, founded by best friends, Salome Vidal and Jeremiah Kanza. They grew up loving their mama's meatballs and decided to open a bar/bistro to showcase their favourite comfort food.

"Five is our magic number. Customers get five boulettes - beef, lamb, chicken, or eggplant/chickpea - rolled in egg and breadcrumbs then grilled, plus delicious sides of, say, creamy polenta, sweet potato purée, lentils, endive and grapefruit salad and mushroom risotto. We make tomato and/or herby yoghurt dipping sauce. And we all wear 'Eat My Balls' T-shirts," says Kanza. "Good shtick, eh?"

In Paris's Jewish neighbourhood, Le Marais, innovative Israeli TV super-chef Eyal Shani says: "We're kosher, closed for Shabbat and festivals, don't mix milk with meat, but Miznon (buffet in Hebrew) is not under the Beth Din of Paris. I want everyone to come here and discover our cooking."

Shani is the owner of Tel-Aviv eateries Salon, Abraxas North and Miznon. The Paris Miznon is a replica of his high-end Tel Aviv canteen. The venue's decor is "rustic chic" - many wooden boxes overflow with fresh market produce.

"My vision is to take whole cities, translate them into one delicious pita - we make them here." So, how about London? He shrugs: "Maybe, who knows."

Shani's young team of Israeli chefs work the open kitchen to rhythms of Israeli rock diva Mei Finegold, Pharrel Williams or Mooki.

Miznon's sizzling pita signatures include cauliflowers, grilled and drizzled with olive oil, ratatouille and humus; fish spiced and grilled; chicken with artichokes and sweet potatoes. There is Heineken on tap, and kosher wines including the full-bodied Sagav Judean Hills red Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. Shani's desserts include Pita Tatin/Pita Choco Banana and tiny free glasses of sugary fresh mint tea.

In his airy right-bank bistro, Miniatures, Yoni Saada, French Top Chef finalist in 2013, writes odes to his products on mini-blackboards. The black and white minimal décor and
central host's table is designed by his wife, Alexandra.

From the open kitchen come dishes which include: le canard au café and shitake mushrooms, fish carpaccio dotted with acidic barberries and hibiscus, Risotto topped with "perfect poached egg" and pesto Genovese. Dessert could be chocolate mousse with crème of corn, popcorn, orange caramel and tonka beans or green-tea Matcha Chantilly cheesecake by Saada's sister Sephora.

"It's a family affair. We're all crazy about cooking. Sephora has a tea-salon called She's-Cake, worth crossing town for," he winks.

Born in the Marais district, Saada's parents and grandparents were butchers. He says he was always hungry and hanging out in the kitchen.

The fascination with all things culinary took him to Ferrandi Cookery School and, after graduating, he worked in the Paris kitchens of William Ledeuil at Les Bouquinistes, with Yannick Alleno at Le Meurice and Frédéric Anton at Le Pré Catalan.

All these young Israeli chefs are the pioneers of an exciting new cuisine attracting the attention of super-chefs such as Alain Ducasse, who says: "Sharing knowledge is not just sharing for the sake of it, it's also sharing to keep the knowledge alive. We have to open our doors to all those who love cooking."

Margaret Kemp is Editor at Large:

Last updated: 9:45am, June 20 2014