Tel Aviv has become one of the world’s great food cities, with an ever-evolving culinary scene. Israel lies at a crossroads of East and West, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, and this is reflected in the variety of ingredients and the many styles of preparation. Jews from the European diaspora mingled with Mizrahi Jews from Egypt, Iraq and the Maghreb, and a unique fusion cuisine was born.
Adjacent to the main structure of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Herta and Paul Amir Building annex houses this spectacular restaurant. The striking interior features a bright-white geometrical ceiling resembling bent, corrugated sheets of paper. The dining room is bathed in natural light streaming in from the grand floor-to-ceiling windows, and well-placed illuminations keep the space feeling vivid and vibrant in the evening. Chef Hilel Tavakuli has developed an extraordinary Mediterranean menu. Start with one of the excellent tartares, or the chicken liver pâté bruschetta drizzled with a light ginger- and lime-infused vinaigrette. Tavakuli showcases local seafood in dishes such as seared drum served with a lentil ragu, Jerusalem artichokes and a spicy salsa verde, and a Sicilian-inspired soup abounding with generous portions of the fish of the day, chile, tomatoes, potatoes and fennel.
27 Shaul Hamelekh Avenue. Tel. (972) 3-644-7441
Set in the heart of Tel Aviv’s historic White City, within the Hotel Montefiore, this brasserie is much loved by locals and visitors alike, who flock here for contemporary French cuisine with strong Vietnamese inflections. The elegant colonial-style dining room features dark wood furnishings, tall potted palms, leather booths and banquettes, and a stylish bar offering expertly crafted cocktails. The menu changes often, but you can expect starters such as Jerusalem artichokes served with a soft egg and caper leaves, tuna tartare with lime confit, and tender crabmeat perched atop black rice. Mains may include a sea bream fillet with a lemongrass cream, or, for carnivores, a pork chop paired with bacon, rich manchego and slices of pear. The restaurant is especially popular for brunch, so reservations are essential.
Hotel Montefiore Restaurant
36 Montefiore Street. Tel. (972) 3-564-6100
Often cited as the best restaurant in Tel Aviv, this fine-dining establishment in The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya serves excellent kosher fare in a picturesque dining room that overlooks the Herzliya Marina and the Mediterranean Sea. Helmed by chef Mor Cohen, the ever-changing, seasonally inspired menu runs to dishes such as char-grilled eggplant with a poached egg in a truffle cream, veal tortellini over a bed of Swiss chard, and duck, sourced from a nearby farm, with pineapple chimichurri, Japanese pumpkin cream and a miso-teriyaki sauce. The foie gras with plum chutney, and the whole sea bass braised in a white root vegetable casserole are also excellent.
Herbert Samuel, Herzliya
4 Ha’Shonit Street, Herzliya Marina. Tel. (972) 73-203-7596
The menu at this beautiful restaurant in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood is divided into five categories based on cooking techniques: cured, steamed, roasted, slow-cooked and baked. Chef Orel Kimchi is a great seafood cook: At our most recent meal, I loved the roasted fillet of drum fish accompanied by grilled gnocchi, lamb pancetta and bok choy, as well as the “Gin & Tonic” tartare composed of cubed chunks of the fish of the day, shallots, cucumber, wasabi tobiko and a jelly made of gin and tonic water. The vegetarian menu also has a number of tempting options, including a warm forbidden rice salad with roasted cabbage, asparagus and peas, and a creamy polenta paired with broccoli, shimeji mushrooms and asparagus in a butter-white wine sauce. Save room for the chocolate soufflé with a caramel-chocolate ganache and a salted caramel ice cream.
3 Ehad Ha’am Street. Tel. (972) 3-575-744
Overseen by chef Yaron Shalev, this elegant Italian-inspired restaurant is conveniently located diagonally across from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Not to be missed is the flavorful fire-burnt eggplant appetizer served on a black slate tile, which is simultaneously smoky and sweet. The comprehensive list of mains will please all palates. The sea bass with king oyster mushrooms and porcini served in a light bianco vermouth sauce is excellent, as is the oxtail tortellini with a celery root purée. The specials change daily, but look for a Périgord foie gras terrine paired with a slightly bitter quince marmalade. The restaurant also boasts a surprisingly extensive 20-page wine list.
4 Berkovitch Street. Tel. (972) 3-693-5151