French Kiss at Oasis
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This isn’t a place for everyone, as the chef doesn't hesitate to challenge the diner, in both the palate and the wallet, bringing foreign scents into the kitchen and presenting precise executions. It’s a desert oasis in Tel Aviv's streets.
Winning dish: French Kiss. This dish is above all a breathtaking and fragrant work of art and only then a celebration of flavors that delights the senses. It’s a dish that isn't eaten to satiate but is intended to explode with gentle blossoming flavors, while being light and summery. Handmade duck prosciutto over tiny pieces of French toast may not sound like a dish to be eaten in the summer, but this interpretation is adorned with violet jam from Provence and passion fruit juice, which together with summer flowers cause us to let out cries of amazement.
Price: NIS 38 for a half portion/ NIS 74 for the full dish.
If you're already there: Try the spicy Mexican watermelon with partially cooked shrimp.
Oasis – 1 Tchernichovsky St., Tel Aviv
Campari sorbet atop tuna Carpaccio at Shila
In the pre-bar era of dining, Sheila was a rare bird in Tel Aviv – a tiny bar with several meticulously prepared seafood dishes. More than seven years later, Sheila has become one of the leading celebrity-chef restaurants in the city, which not only has excellent raw ingredients but also provides a nice atmosphere and mood.
Winning dish: The Campari sorbet on tuna Carpaccio. Think of a punk music session that assaults the senses. The idea is to have the diner taste the entire spectrum of flavors in one piece of fish, starting with the fish, then sorbet, then pickled seaweed, wasabi, celery and ginger flavoring, soy sauce, olive oil and lemon juice.
Price: NIS 64
If you're already there: The entire appetizers menu specializes in tartars and Carpaccio – both ideal for the summer. How does crystal shrimp Carpaccio, tomato seeds, coriander, pickled garlic and hot pepper sound?
Shila – 182 Ben Yehuda St., Tel Aviv
Za'atar gazpacho with yellow tomatoes at Aria
One of the more impressive openings recently was that of chef Guy Gamzu’s restaurant, who for four years was acting chef at the restaurant Rafael. Aria is situated on two floors of a historically preserved house in Tel Aviv. It combines a sparkling cocktail bar on the first floor with a creative chef restaurant on the second. To get the full experience, you should visit both over the course of the evening.
The winning dish: Za'atar gazpacho with yellow tomatoes alongside fish tartare and mustard-seed oil. The secret of the gazpacho is found in the precise mix of flavors: tomatoes and a hefty amount of infused fresh za'atar, which contributes its green color to the soup and balances the flavor of the tomatoes. Add some spicy green peppers, garlic and mustard-seed oil, to provide a spicy contrast, and red tuna tartare and you have one of the most invigorating meals you have tasted in a while.
Price: NIS 55
If you're already here: A stop at the cocktail bar is a must, but also try the summer calamari salad with chili paste and sheep's' milk yoghurt.
Aria – 66 Nahalat Binyamin St., Tel Aviv.
Roasted nectarines in olive oil with Cambozola cheese at Wineberg
This small wine bar opened four years ago as a kind of city inn – a place to snack on something with your booze. Over time, it expanded, but the intimate feel remained, producing dishes in the tiny kitchen that mix Israel and Spanish flavors with a new and interesting interpretation.
The winning dish: Roasted nectarines in olive oil with Cambozola cheese. No combination is more summery than fruits and cheeses, whether as a dessert or a real dish. The chef at Wineberg takes nectarines and places them in an oven covered with syrup and spices, like cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, so the sweetness bursts out and the syrup provides a deeper taste dimension. The Cambozola is a mix of Camembert and Gorgonzola cheese but is more subtle than either. The result is a nuanced and pretty dish for the summer of 2013.
Price: NIS 32
If you're already here: Don't skip over the Asian Chicken or grape leaf stuffed with rice and dried mint served with a lot of yoghurt. Very summery.
Weinberg – 106 Ben Yehuda St., Tel Aviv
The small bistro of former media personality Yahaloma Levi rests on the thin line between cafeteria and neighborhood bistro, with food that fits the location where it's served – Tel Aviv's Levinsky market.
Slocchi at Yahaloma
Winning dish: Slocchi – Gnocchi with roasted artichoke, spinach, basil and hazelnut. Gnocchi in the summer might sound a bit too heavy, but Yahaloma's Greek version is light, airy, nice and tasty. While gnocchi is usually made with potato filling, Yahaloma's gnocchi has celery filling making it a lighter dish. The Slocchi aren't saturated with sauce but pickled in olive oil and other vegetables and receive a significant amount lemon zest, giving them a tangy and invigorating Mediterranean flavor.
Price: NIS 45
If you're already here: Here too you can find red gazpacho as a cold appetizer before the main course, but what's really worth trying is the mejadra, a lentil dish served with rice and garnished with sautéed onions that’s served with cold cucumber salad and seasoned yoghurt on the side.
Yahaloma – 5 Zevulun St., Tel Aviv.
Best summer dishes outside Tel Aviv
FISH in Rishon Letzion
The restaurant FISH was located along the beach for the years, but it when moved into the city it also changed its concept, becoming one of the nicest restaurants in Rishon Letzion. Pick out the Thai street salad (NIS 30) on the menu for its summer-friendly combination of green papaya, fresh chili and lemon grass.
FISH, 7 Prof. Benny Havut St. Rishon Letzion.
Helena at Caesarea Harbor
It's enough to taste the crystal shrimp Carpaccio and spicy apricot (NIS 48) to get a feel for the chef's work. Apricots and seafood – that’s summer.
Helena at Caesarea Harbor - Caesarea Harbor
Turquoise in Jerusalem
One of the few restaurants in Israel where you can feel cool in the summer without turning on the air conditioning is Turquoise on the rooftop of St. George's Hotel in Jerusalem. The Lebanese restaurant's kubbeh, cooked with leben fermented milk ($9) captured our hearts for being light even though it was fried.
Turquoise - Street Saint George Landmark Hotel, 6 Amr Ibn Ala'as St., Jerusalem
Sinta Bar in Haifa
The menu here once focused primarily on hamburgers, but for a nice summer dish try the Mediterranean plate combining several types of tomatoes, Italian artichoke, Greek Kalmata olives, hard-boiled egg, spicy pepper and Bulgarit cheese (similar to feta).
Sinta Bar, 127 Moriah Ave., Haifa
Hodoo Haktana in Be'er Sheva
Lassi is wonderful Indian beverage to sip in the summer. At the modest and vegetarian-friendly Hodoo Haktana you can find lassis that go down well with the wide variety of tasty dishes. Try the Vaj Biryani (NIS 36), a rice dish mixed with quite a few spices and vegetables that could be called a "light version of risotto."
Hodoo Ketana- 15 Ringelblum St., Be'er Sheva.