With the days getting hotter and the beaches filling up, Tel Aviv could almost pass for a South American city right now. So why not try the continent's famous tangy and delicious raw fish dish – with an Israeli twist? Here's our list of the five best ceviches in town.
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Tastes of summer: Ceviche at Jaffa Tel Aviv
In parallel with his flourishing career as a reality show judge, chef Haim Cohen a year ago opened the Jaffa Tel Aviv restaurant, which fuses authentic with innovative cuisine.
The winning ceviche: sea fish, herbs and bulgur on tzatziki – a cool blend of yogurt and cucumber. By opting for exciting tang over tongue-scalding spiciness and perfectly balancing green herbs, bulgur, fresh amberjack fish and tzatziki, Cohen creates the Mediterranean answer to the famed South American dish. It's like putting summer in your mouth.
Price: The ceviche is served as a free first course in the business lunch.
If you're already here: And if you're into raw fish, try Cohen’s version of fish tartare. Served with roasted eggplant and swimming in tomatoes, it's something else.
Jaffa Tel Aviv – 65 Yigal Allon Street, Tel Aviv
Less is more: Ceviche in blood orange vinaigrette at Tapeo
Tapeo has been operating on Haarba’a Street for 11 years now, and judging by the crowds in the evenings, it hasn’t lost any of its relevance. Fortunately for ceviche lovers, an entire section of its menu is devoted to raw fish.
The winning ceviche: corvina with blood orange vinaigrette, avocado, radish and cilantro sprouts. It isn't easy to pick a winner from among the many beautiful and sophisticated ceviches here, but the simplicity of this dish gives it the edge. The combination of avocado and radish is always a winner and the blood orange vinegar adds a light and interesting citrus flavor, but the corvina is the key. Our only complaint is how fast it disappears.
Price: NIS 42.
If you're already here: You must taste the Peruvian-style mullet ceviche with sweet potato chips. Fun is an understatement.
Tapeo – 16 Haarba’a Street, Tel Aviv
Organized chaos: Salmon ceviche and black quinoa at Mizlala
Chef Meir Adoni of the prestigious Catit restaurant opened Mizlala about two years ago to offers a freer, lighter and (relatively) more affordable version of his cooking style.
The winning ceviche: salmon, apricot, cucumber and tapioca in chili, soya and marjoram vinaigrette. As this partial list of ingredients suggests, minimalism is not the ethos here. But Adoni organizes the exceptionally complex (even by ceviche standards) jumble of flavors layer by layer down to the smallest detail. The choice of ingredients is brilliant. There's the crunchy black quinoa, the dominant yet delicately sharp sauce, the sweet intervals of apricots and the unexpected blanched almonds. This dish will titillate even the most seasoned palate.
Price: NIS 79.
If you're already here: Try the roast pork with garlic wrapped in laffa (thin Middle Eastern flatbread) with smoked fries on the side. You've never tasted anything quite like it.
Mizlala – 57 Nahalat Binyamin Street, Tel Aviv
A coy fish: Asian ceviche at Joz ve Loz
A typewritten and poetic menu that changes daily, eclectic furniture from the flea market, a fine soundtrack and dim lighting make Joz ve Loz a pleasant escape in the midst of Tel Aviv.
The winning ceviche: corvina, cucumber, lettuce, cilantro, tapioca pearls, yuzu and sesame oil topped with black wakame (edible seaweed). The ceviche at Joz ve Loz is alluring precisely because it is so reserved. Rather than carousing all over the plate like other ceviches, it winks coyly at Japanese sushi.
The tapioca pearls (which stand in for rice), cubes of fresh corvina, lettuce and cilantro are seasoned with lemon juice, yuzu and sesame oil and it's all topped with black wakame. It all comes together perfectly to create a fun dish you almost want to eat with your hands.
Price: NIS 62.
If you're already here: Come at lunchtime, when for the price of the ceviche you also get bread and lots of different tapas dishes for the center of the table.
Joz ve Loz – 51 Yehuda Halevi Street, Tel Aviv
A glimpse of Greece from Jaffa: Arab-style ceviche at Kalamata
A small, happy restaurant in the Old City of Jaffa, Kalamata is an Israeli take on a Greek "taverna." One of its best features is a wonderful view of the Mediterranean, so try to reserve one the two tables by the window in advance.
The winning ceviche: Arab-style corvina ceviche. Tender pieces of fish sit in a salad of crispy red cabbage, green and red onions, a bit of bulgur, parsley, tomatoes and lots of lemon juice. Beneath the salad are yogurt and delicate parsley cream. All in all, it’s a brave and luscious interpretation of ceviche.
Price: NIS 42.
If you're already here: The horiatiki (Greek tomato and cucumber salad) is a definite must.
Kalamata – 2 Kilar Kedumim, Jaffa