Let's Eat

Where to find Israel's top tables this year

Before you fly out to the land of milk and honey, check out where professional foodies choose to dine


Israel used to be the last place you would choose for a gourmet break. Now it's a nosh fest.

With most holidays only a week or two away, you'll want to plan your dining schedule before you hit the departure lounge. So JC Food has quizzed the foodiest Israelis we know on what's hot in the land of mahallabi and pomegranate molasses.

Gil Hovav, a Tel Aviv-based restaurant critic, has plenty to recommend: "My favourite of the past few months is Pastel at the Tel Aviv Museum ( It's a lovely creative restaurant and has won awards for best design. It is open for lunch and dinner."

Dishes include a spicy caprese salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and seed basil, and crispy sea bream with Moroccan carrot cream with a warm salad of wheat, beans and pesto.

Hovav also rates tiny Arab restaurant Dalal, owned by Osama Dala; tel (02) 46397345. "It's off the beaten track in Acre in the north, in a part of the market called the Turkish bazaar, with maybe only two tables.

"The fun part is that they don't even have a fridge. You order and they rush to the market, buy it and cook it for you. It's so fresh. They are open only for lunch and close on Mondays; if a group of more than six book they will open especially for you for dinner."

Another of Hovav's favourites is from the team behind Machneyuda and London's The Palomar.

"Talbiye is under the Jerusalem Theatre in the Talpiyah district ( It's a lovely bistro and wine bar, but what is really special is that it opens seven days a week - which is unusual in Jerusalem - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is very good, the wine lovely, and it's not too pricey."

Next on Hovav's hit list is Beit Hakavan, which translates as "the station house". It's in a gentrified former train station in Baka - an area of Jerusalem now full of shops and cafés. The half Kurdish/half Moroccan, Jewish chef/owner, Avi Levi, was an Israeli MasterChef winner who also owns Jerusalem restaurant HaMotzi.

Hovav's favourite dishes include kadeh - dumplings filled with confit of beef that is seared on a dry plancha (grill) without oil - and he says they also do great kebabs. It's kosher, meaty, and open five and a half days a week. Located at David Remez 2 in Jerusalem and open Sunday to Thursday, 2pm – 12am; tel (02) 533 6044.

His last tip is trendy cocktail venue The Imperial Bar, situated in the Imperial Hotel at 66 Hayarkon Street, on the corner of Trumpledor Street in Tel Aviv ( "It's a shabby little three-star hotel which doesn't look very promising. In the lobby is a simple door leading to the bar, which is a wonderland."

The bar is run by several veteran Tel Avivian bartenders and is extremely popular so it's best to arrive by 7pm for a table or you may have to queue.

London-based Yossi Elad, a co-founder of Machneyuda and The Palomar, flies home to Israel every few weeks. "There are a few nice, new places in Tel Aviv," he says.

He recommends Santa Katarina in Har Sinai 2; tel (02) 587820292. It opened in March and the head chef trained with Haim Cohen - one of Israel's best-known chefs. The restaurant has a taboon - a big stone oven designed specifically for making pizza, focaccia and pastries - and the menu is Italian-based. It draws a hip young crowd.

"It's real Israeli food and not too expensive," says Elad.

Another favourite of Elad's is bar restaurant Shila ( on Ben Yehudah Street, which is run by Jerusalem-born chef Sharon Cohen. The Tel Aviv restaurant, named after Cohen's dog, has been open five years, serving up a blend of Middle Eastern, Italian and Spanish flavours to a hip and trendy crowd. Reservation is recommended.

Elad also speaks highly of Angelica ( close to Jerusalem's King David hotel. It's kosher fine dining and is run by chefs Erez Mergi and Marcos Gershkowitz.

The menu includes starters such as cured Mediterranean sardines, antipasto, radishes and fresh herbs and foie gras, marzipan and nut cigar, and melon and chilli pepper coulis, and mains including chicken breast sous-vide, chickpea salad, cured lemons, sundried tomatoes, Tassos olives and fresh herbs, and seared sea fish.

For something a bit different, try Majda (, in an Arab village on the way to Jerusalem in Ein Rafa. It is run by a Jewish/Arab couple - Michal Baranes from Netanya and her Muslim husband Yakub Barhum, who has always lived in the Arab village.

"They are amazing people who are cooking a fusion of authentic Arab dishes," says Elad, who also explains part of the attraction is the terrace with fabulous views.

Dishes include kebab with roast pumpkin and pomegranate; fig salad with endive and Tulum cheese, and focaccia with muscat grapes and mascarpone.

With tips like these, there's no excuse not to make your Israeli holiday totally delicious.

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