The capricious winter is being good to us, with short lulls between the periods of rain. Only on Friday morning do we pray for the kind of downpour that will gradually become stronger, carry us into the weekend and enable us to devote ourselves to the ultimate Saturday meal: a steaming pot of hamin, or cholent, the traditional Shabbat stew, to be savored slowly, along with rivers of cold beer or frozen vodka, pickles and horseradish. The kind after which all you can do is dream about having a good nap – or actually doing so.
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But we don’t always have the energy to labor over the cholent by ourselves, to prepare just the right amount, to engineer the ingredients in exemplary order, to ensure that it will be nicely browned, along with a precise balance of liquids and a fatty brown egg. And mainly – to wait, since in the final analysis that is one of the factors that makes home-made cholent so delicious. Places that will do the work for you were invented precisely for such days, and it’s a good idea to get organized ahead of time and pick up the cholent on Thursday or Friday.
Superb and arrogant: Zuk Farm deli
On ordinary days, the restaurant of Chef Asaf Shinar and farmer Tomer Zuk produces creative foods that use fresh local ingredients from the Zuk Farm in the Valley of Elah. You’ll find a glass display case here with somewhat unusual pieces of meat in it (calf’s liver, baby goat meat and more), along with vegetables and greens that were picked at their peak.
It’s no wonder that this abundance makes its way into the cholent as well. The result surprises at first, catches us unprepared, but then this cholent turns out to be tasty and even relatively light. The Zuk Farm cholent contains lima beans, wheat, sweet potatoes, mangold, onions and whatever else takes their fancy. Served mainly on Shabbat and sometimes on Friday as well. Check it out in advance. 82 shekels in the restaurant, 74 shekels for take-out.
5 Moshe Perlok St., Tel Aviv. 077-5155905 15
Classic Polish cholent: Sender
The Eastern European restaurant on Levinsky Street, established with the founding of the state, was originally located on Jerusalem Boulevard in Jaffa. Only in 1960 did it move to its present location, and every day since then has been serving food that seems like it came straight from the stories of Shalom Aleichem: chopped liver, egg salad, gizzards in sauce, roasts, calf’s tongue in mushroom sauce, leg of goose and other hits from the shtetl. The cholent recipe is also decades old; it includes tender chunks of meat, white beans, black beans and lima beans, potatoes, onions and wonderfully browned eggs.
If you decide to skip the traditional meat cholent , you’ll do well to pamper yourself with one of the best home-made kishkes in town. In the winter they will deliver a pot of cholent to your home (price includes the pot). An individual order costs 89 shekels, cholent for two is 169 shekels, and so on. Only on Fridays. Kosher.
54 Levinsky St., Tel Aviv. 03-5371872
Old-time flavor: Keton
Since the closing of the Café Batya restaurant, the city seemed to have suddenly lost one of the last bastions of kishke. But the veteran Kiton is still with us, and in recent years had a facelift, as though trying to make it look younger. It was redesigned launched a delivery service that operates all week long. Here you can still get a cold beet borscht, calf’s foot jelly, stuffed Polish spleen or helzel (stuffed poultry neck). The thick cholent here includes meat, barley, lots of beans, potatoes and a wonderful fatty kishke. Price for a complete cholent, 71 shekels. There are also vegetarian and vegan options.
145 Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv. 03-5244679
Generous portions: Hamitbahon
A Frisbee’s throw away from the Carmel Market, Hamitbahon opened in 1997 and soon became a second home for many Tel Avivians longing for some kind of home-cooked food, even if wasn’t perfect. Twenty years later not much has changed. Even the prices have not really become inflated; they’ve increased only slightly. In addition to huge salads, soups and home-style meat dishes, there’s a large number of vegetarian and vegan main courses.
On Shabbat, cholent is served, and you get one of the most generous portions we’ve come across. The crowded plate includes three kinds of beans (white, black and lima), lots of wheat, onions and whole soft potatoes along with a brown egg and chunks of meat. There’s also vegetarian cholent. Meat cholent costs 52 shekels and vegetarian cholent goes for 45 shekels.
18 Rabbi Akiva St., Kerem Hateimanim, Tel Aviv. 03-5163689
A surprise: Sabich Complete
The big surprise of our round of tastings was discovered on Ibn Gvirol Street, in the least expected place. At Sabich Complete, a small snack bar serving sabich and various steaming soups, there’s a pot of cholent on a sizzling hotplate at the front of the counter every Monday and Thursday. Yom Tov, the Iraqi owner, learned the secrets of preparing cholent from a religious Jew from Bnei Brak. He improved the recipe, and since then has offered a spicy reddish cholent with lots of chunks of meat (almost too many), potatoes, beans and barley. There’s no egg, and we found no kishke either. But there may be no need for them. A surprisingly generous portion costs 35 shekels.
99 Ibn Gvirol St., Tel Aviv. 03-5231810