Tel Aviv, the city of choice for the gluten-free gourmand
Whether it's pasta at Café Italia, pizza at Achoti, or a hamburger at Hudson, Tel Aviv is diner's paradise for gluten-free goodies that are chock-full of taste.
More and more Tel Aviv diners are looking for a nosh that's free of gluten, either because they suffer from Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease whose symptoms are triggered by consuming gluten) or simply because they are on the hunt for a healthier lifestyle.
Gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat, barley and oats, and once upon a time, it was everywhere. These days, diners looking to avoid gluten should shirk bread and pasta, foods prepared with certain types of oil, and even food prepared in an oven that also cooked gluten-loaded products.
For many restaurants, the challenge is dreaming up gluten-free goodies that remain tasty. Awareness of the gluten-free diet is up, and today many restaurants offer gluten-free dishes or even an entirely separate menu. They keep the suitable raw materials on hand in the kitchen so they can offer celiac patients an excellent choice of dishes.
However, it must be stated in advance that all of the places on this list – and in general – make a great effort to adapt themselves for clients who suffer from gluten-sensitivity. They're flexible about removing ingredients from a dish if need be, and using separate tools when preparing food, but – and this is critical – they are not completely sterile. In cases of extreme sensitivity it is recommended that you exercise caution.
Italian: grilled artichoke pasta at Café Italia
Since its inception, Café Italia has made a name for itself as a solid, unpretentious restaurant serving up hearty portions of quality food and good service. It has had gluten-free items on its menu from the start; largely due to the fact that chef Itay Biderman’s wife suffers from celiac disease. The proprietors wanted to make customers with gluten intolerance feel welcome in the same way they wanted to reach out to vegetarians and vegans. And as if that wasn’t enough, the restaurant has strict regulations regarding the serving of such dishes, and every waiter must commit to memory the list of those which can be offered gluten-free.
The winning dish: Grilled artichoke pasta. Never fear, gluten-free noshers: This pasta is made from a rice-based (read: gluten-free) flour and served with a garlic and olive oil sauce. Normally, gluten-free pastas have a problematic texture, but this one is nothing short of excellent. What really steals the show is the addition of grilled artichokes, an abundance of kalamata olives and the cooked cherry tomatoes.
The cost: NIS 62 for a very large portion
Other dishes: Take the opportunity to try the osso bocco, a dish that usually uses regular flour, but in this case uses corn flour. As for desserts, don't miss the “Nemesis” and the polenta and almond cake.
Café Italia, Kreminitzki 6, Tel Aviv
Gourmet: "Egg" at Kitchen Market
The addition of chef Yossi Shitrit has only benefited this restaurant, located above the farmer's market at the Tel Aviv Port. Kitchen Market makes good use of the fresh produce available just downstairs, but it's far from a "market restaurant." It would be more accurate to call it a chef's restaurant, one that happens to be located in the market. The food is meticulously prepared, creative and exciting, and is the menu is also a thing of beauty for those with a gluten intolerance.
The winning dish: Egg. On paper it may not sound that sexy, but this dish actually touches upon principles of molecular gastronomy, and has become one of the most talked-about bites in the city.
This is not your everyday, crack-the-shell-and-serve sort of egg. This egg is constructed from several layers and served up in a jar. On the bottom is a delightful smear of porcini mushroom cream, topped with champignon, woodland and shimeji mushrooms that have been browned in butter and white wine. In order to justify the dish’s name, a soft egg that has been cooked at 60 degrees C is placed on top of the mushrooms. Finally, a delicate cloud of parmesan and white truffle foam is added. The standard version serves the dish with croutons between each layer, but this gluten-free adaptation removes them.
The cost: NIS 32 at dinner, NIS 27 at lunch
Other dishes: Shrimp and Jerusalem artichoke polenta. The soft polenta is cooked with milk, cream, crystal shrimps, broccoli and soft tomatoes, and is an excellent dish that can also be adapted to suit vegetarians. For dessert, try the espresso brûlée with chocolate ganache.
Kitchen Market, Hangar 12, Tel Aviv Port
For carnivores: the Hudson burger at Hudson
Hudson started its journey five years ago as a "chef restaurant" specializing in meat. With time it moved away from the chef restaurant genre and today is a serious (and not cheap) steakhouse, mainly due to the man at its helm – Chef Matan Abrahams. Gluten-free options have always been on the menu, and to its credit, Hudson is one of the most scrupulous restaurants in the field. The menu is separated into gluten and non-gluten sections and in the kitchen, special food-prep stations have been designated as totally gluten-free.
The winning dish: The Hudson burger. Gluten-sensitive meat fans don’t have many opportunities to feel peace of mind while chomping on an excellent hamburger, served up in a bun and with French fries on the side. Hudson is a rare exception. Inside a bun crafted from gluten-free flour sits a juicy, 250-gram hamburger shaped from finely chopped meat, flavored perfectly with just Atlantic sea salt and crushed black pepper. The burger is served charred on the outside and perfectly done within – juicy, not too dense and simply excellent. Don’t miss the addictive thin fries, which turn golden and crispy in their own special gluten-free frying station.
The cost: NIS 66 for the burger, NIS 15 for chips
Other dishes: Gnocchi. True, there are other great meat dishes on offer, like the carpaccio with gluten-free soy, but everything is overshadowed by the gnocchi made from potato flour and potatoes, in a yam and cream sauce. As for desserts, it’s worth focusing on Hudson’s famous New York style cheesecake. If you order in advance, they'll make sure you can also have gluten-free schnitzel. Well worth it.
Hudson, Habarzel 27, Ramat Hachayal, Tel Aviv
Asian: Pad Thai at Moadon Haktzinim (The Officers' Club)
The Officers' Club was founded five years ago as a stylish, upgraded version of the well-known Asian food chain Giraffe, owned by veteran restaurateur Rimon Ben Yakir. At the Officers' Club, just like at all Giraffe restaurants, there is a range of gluten-free options, from starters to desserts. The staff is also flexible when it comes to adding or taking away ingredients.
The winning dish: Pad Thai. This isn’t just a winning dish because of its taste and size, but also because of the fact that it's made gluten-free from the very start. The noodles are crafted from rice flour and, if you're not ravenous, the dish is could easily satisfy two diners. The principle is simple – noodles tossed with shrimp, chicken or tofu, scrambled egg, bean sprouts and scallions. It’s worth drizzling some lemon juice on it and also sprinkling on the ground peanuts that accompany it. The result is delicate, simple and tasty.
The cost: NIS 49
Other dishes: You can find all the familiar dishes from Giraffe on the menu, from a refreshing Thai salad with chopped chicken and spicy peppers to sushi with gluten-free soy and other familiar noodle dishes.
The Officers' Club, 21 Ha'arbaa St. Tel Aviv
Best neighborhood dish: Hawaiian pizza at Achoti
Among the many cafes on trendy Yehuda HaMaccabi street, it’s pretty easy to miss Achoti, which has been hiding there quietly for over half a year now. The concept: a small neighborhood restaurant that is both pizzeria and all-inclusive Italian family chowhouse.
The winning dish: The Hawaiian pizza. The crust is thin but not too thin, and the dough (which is made from three types of gluten-free flour – soy, rice and corn) manages to stay crispy despite the addition of tomato sauce and toppings. We chose to add pineapples, spicy peppers, mint and mozzarella – a combination that resulted in a successful sweet and spicy pizza.
The cost: NIS 32 + NIS 5 for a gluten-free crust
Other dishes: Gluten-free penne maybe not surprise us anymore, but we were still excited by the lasagna, spaghetti and fettuccini, which are all gluten-free. Leave some room for a chocolate pizza dessert.
Achoti, Yehuda HaMaccabi 53, Tel Aviv
Other gluten-free dishes you can’t miss
Amore Mio If there are moments that we regret this not being a “top six” list, they’re because of places like Amore Mio. This excellent restaurant serves up simple Italian food in large quantities and a happy, soulful atmosphere. Until five years ago patrons with gluten intolerance would bring their own pasta from home and add the sauce at the restaurant. Over the last few years the place has undergone a change, and apart from the pizzas and two desserts, the menu is thoughtful and welcoming.
Because of the amount of successful dishes we found it hard to choose the best one – should it be the pasta with beef filet and brandy, or the wonderful chocolate cake? The eventual winner was a pasta dish which left us with a serious hankering for Italy – the carbonara. This pasta is made out of rice flour and is served with cream and smoked goose breast, and topped with fresh egg yolk (NIS 58). How do you say “excellent” in Italian? Amore Mio – 100 Ibn Gvirol, Tel Aviv
Home Made This is the cutest place in the Bitzaron neighborhood, and is well worth keeping an eye on. Home Made incorporates a deli with a restaurant that serves healthy home cooking. With its excellent and inexpensive food it's a small heaven for the gluten intolerant – as well as all of their gluten-happy friends and family. We deliberated over the huge choice of dishes and finally chose the cheapest item – which was also the tastiest we tried. The polenta bread, made with corn flour and cherry tomatoes and served with tahini (NIS 8) is painstakingly prepared, and this is apparent with every bite. The bonus: You can get it to take-out as well. Home Made, Hanatziv 18, Montefiore, Tel Aviv
Orna and Ella This Tel Aviv institution has been serving up delights for vegetarians, vegans and those with gluten intolerance for years. As usual, the place’s magic secret is the freshness of their dishes and the care they take over preparing them. The menu offers plenty of gluten-free options, so we chose a dish of baked orange vegetables with a carrot sauce, macadamia cream and a quinoa salad. It was nothing short of spectacular. Orna and Ella, Sheinkin 33. Tel Aviv
Bariba What can you expect from a place called Bariba (meaning "health bar")? But before you turn your noses up at the word “healthy,” it should be remembered that above all the food here is tasty. Bariba offers a fresh dairy kitchen for those who want taste as well as quality. The menu is user-friendly and doesn’t discriminate against those with gluten sensitivities. We chose the most enjoyable dish on the menu – roasted pumpkin with quinoa (NIS 40). The pumpkin squares were served on a heap of quinoa dotted with cranberries and herbs, alongside with a lovely puddle of minty yogurt. The menu says that it is low-fat and helps reduce cholesterol – we simply say it’s a success. Bariba – Hataarocha 3, Tel Aviv Port
Adega-Tchernichovsky 6 The veteran bistro on 6 Tchernichovsky St. recently added the name Adega. The place is loyal to the classic formula of restaurants which serve a meal consisting of a starter and main course, and apart from two dishes the whole menu can be adapted to suit those with gluten intolerance. The place is one of the few that regularly have gluten-free bread, and therefore we chose the liver pate soaked in port with fig preserves and toast (NIS 26) – a most excellent dish. Agada-Tchernichovsky 6, Tel Aviv,
Recommended gluten-free dishes outside of Tel Aviv
Segev Express Rishon Letzion Chef Segev Moshe is sensitive to the plight of those who have gluten intolerance – and his empathy is reflected in his menus. Among the dishes that were created gluten-free from the start – like the ceviche, carpaccio served without toast, and excellent risotto – it’s worth going for the famous muesli ice-cream. Segev Express Rishon Letzion, Hazahav mall, Rishon Letzion
Tandoori Herzliya Indian cuisine excels in gluten-free dishes and Tandoori offers a selection of these, which are based on chickpea flour or lentils. Among the dishes we liked: The masala roti - an Indian bread made from yellow lentil flour (NIS 18), and the pakoras, an assortment of vegetables coated in tempura made from chickpea flour. Other great gluten-free solutions are the curry dishes and rice served here. Tandoori Herzliya, Mashkit 32, Herzliya Pituah
Mia Casa This cute neighborhood cafe located near Kibbutz Glil Yam offers a selection of breakfasts served with gluten-free bread. They also serve high quality sandwiches and pizzas made with gluten-free flour, such as an antipasti pizza with vegetables in olive oil (NIS 45), or a grilled-chicken breast sandwich (NIS 46). Mia Casa, Kibbutz Glil Yam
Yamatoya A couple of months ago this Japanese restaurant debuted its gluten-free dishes with the help of food personality Phyllis Glazer, incorporating the new dishes into the older menu. The sushi is divine, but don't stop there. We vote for the salmon rolls wrapped with rice paper (NIS 29), and several types of pasta made of rice flour in the Japanese style. Yamatoya, 6 B’nai B’rith Street, Hod Hasharon
Derech Hagefen The beautiful restaurant at the Beit Zayit moshav boasts not only a lovely view, but also a lovely gluten-free dessert created by chef Ilan Niv. This Parisian chocolate cake is served hot with vanilla ice cream, and the base of the cake is made from a high percentage of chocolate – replacing the flour. Warning: it's sweet. Derech Hagefen, 1 Derech Hagefen, Beit Zayit