It’s not easy being Ashkenazi food. Nobody asks for recommendations for it on Facebook, it’s not a star on Instagram and it doesn’t get any hype. Like it or not, it’s only popular in specific places, among specific people who are really big fans. It will rarely be a part of the local food scene.
Can Yiddishe Mama, a new sandwich stand in the Carmel Market, change all that? Probably not. On the other hand, don’t bet against the people behind it. When the butcher Meat Market opened a branch in the southern part of the market six years ago, the space was gleaming with high-tech tools and stood out as a stranger of sorts among the older surroundings. They started out with a grill, offering to cook various cuts of meat. A year later, when they realized there was greater potential, they opened the M25 steak house about 25 meters away – a favorite in the market and among the city’s best. These are people who know what they’re doing, and do it well.
About two weeks ago, the Meat Market butcher put up a window, scribbled a few sentences in Yiddish on the wall and created a small menu of sandwiches for people to enjoy on the spot, on a bench nearby or to take away. Three sandwiches with Yiddish names are on offer: The Vilde Chaya (corned beef with pickles, mustard, mayonnaise and tomato) for 44 shekels; the Oy Vey Iz Mir (lamb bacon and pepper spread with mayonnaise, mustard, tomato and arugula) for 48 shekels; and the Gevalt (pickled tongue, egg salad, tomato and pickled onions) for 42 shekels.
There’s also the Nu Shoyn, a charcuterie plate for 58 shekels; egg salad with bread for 38 shekels and chopped liver with caramelized onions, also for 38 shekels. All can be washed down with seltzer water or beer. (Coke Zero didn’t exist in Poland).
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I ordered the Oy Vey Iz Mir – lamb bacon and pepper spread served on a slightly sweet challah bun. A lot has been written in this paper about lamb bacon. When you do away with the comparison (for starters, by not calling it bacon), then you have to admit that it’s fun: thin, salty slices that are fatty and crisp, a counter-flavor to everything it’s surrounded by, working well with the pepper spread and fresh veggies. The result is a sandwich that – while not very large or satisfying – met two important criteria in its combination of tastes (sweet, salty and slightly spicy) and textures (soft and crunchy).
The great bargain from every standpoint was the charcuterie plate, unjustly called Nu Shoyn (“Oh well”). It isn’t just any dish, as the name suggests, but the crowning glory of the food stand and one of the best dishes in town. The menu says it’s 300 grams of various cuts of meat but it appears to be much larger – not only my plate, but on the others I saw near me, full of small and large stacks of hot and cold cuts.
Two or perhaps more can enjoy this meal, which is a far cry from your generic pastrami. You can use a fork or just eat with your hands. The flavors are intense, the result of good pickling and seasoning (I particularly liked the dry bresaola), but each cut had its own texture, temperature and flavor. You can ask for some more mayo or aioli at the window, and even a shot of strong alcohol on the house to complete the Eastern European feel.
If Meat Market has branded itself – deliberately or not – as a north Tel Aviv butcher shop that can be found in the city center as well, Yiddishe Mama is a humoristic wink that takes it much farther: It’s an antithesis to the noisy, pseudo-authentic stands in the market. The successful result proves that it’s not just a gimmick, but a welcome and refreshing addition to the city’s culinary landscape.
Yiddishe Mama, Yom Tov 3, Carmel Market, Tel Aviv Tel. 03-5173086; Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00-17:00