Each year when summer comes, all kinds of new eateries start to pop up everywhere, all with one thing in common – a “summer on the beach” vibe, regardless of their actual proximity to the sea. Places that have been around for a while also exploit this time to give themselves a makeover, to refresh their menus and breathe new life into the cocktails that were starting to feel outdated already last summer.
So what’s new this year? Well, the Tel Aviv coastline, just north of Jaffa, now boasts a new complex called Beach Club. The energetic pair behind the new venture are entrepreneurs Nisan Vaknin and Avital Dovrat Shechter, who first joined forces at the nearby Gazoz Beach restaurant and, when planning their new eatery dreamed of changing everything we once thought about places to dine on the beach – in terms of the service, the cocktails and food, and even the prices, which are usually notoriously high on our beaches.
Dovrat Shechter and Vaknin have been running the Gazoz Beach restaurant nearby for several years. A year ago they decided to try to liven things up in the Emek Hefer area along the Coastal Highway, and opened Faro, an Italian eatery, at the M Way (Em Haderekh) Mall there. This year they’re back at the Tel Aviv shoreline: Their new project is located on the former site of the iconic Dolphinarium, where the Eurovision Village that drew tens of thousands of people every night, was situated. The new seaside compound includes a restaurant, a convenience store that sells designer bathing suits from Israel and abroad, a surfing club, a takeout snack bar, a cocktail bar – and, the heart of the project, an Asian restaurant called Seeyam.
“We wanted to create a place where you could spend a whole day,” says Vaknin. “Not just somewhere to eat hummus or have a beer, although you can do that too, of course. You can get a surfboard or a stand-up paddle board, you can take your kid to a day of surfing camp – and meanwhile sit and watch the waves and have some Asian food or try the cocktail bar. In the evening, there’s also a DJ and a different kind of cuisine than what we’re used to, at the beach.”
Seeyam’s menu was put together by chef Roy Sofer (formerly of Bindella, Sardinia and Bunz) and focuses on Thai-inspired dishes, variations on sushi and raw fish, as well as a few items from the Chinese kitchen.
Vaknin: “It was a long process to create the kind of menu we were aiming for. We tried lots of beach restaurants in Israel and in Thailand and China too. We’ve eaten at every Thai restaurant in Israel. Just because we’re on the beach doesn’t mean we need to compromise here. Everything is prepared on the premises. That means the curry pastes and the pepper sauces, too. A lot of thought went into how to adapt our vision to this place without being superficial or shallow about it, and of course the prices had to be reasonable, and just because people are at the beach doesn’t mean that they’re a captive audience. We care about giving people good return for their money. I don’t want to sell them sand in a pita.”
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The other restaurant in the Beach Club complex serves classic beach food for the whole family – various breakfast combos, schnitzel, french fries, fish, seafood (also ceviche made with fresh fish), grilled hamburgers and salads.
So what is there to eat at Seeyam, and how much does it cost?
Besides the sushi that’s full of fresh vegetables and fruit like mango, pineapple and melon, there is a Thai menu that seems designed to transport diners to faraway isles. The offerings include larb gai – a salad of ground chicken mixed with mint, coriander, shallots and dried pepper powder (54 shekels, or $15); nam tok – seared sirloin steak with shallots, mint, coriander and ground rice (58 shekels); a puff pastry filled with pullet, potatoes and a paste of root vegetables and curry (52 shekels); classic pad thai, with vegetables, egg and green onion, or a chicken or shrimp version (68-82 shekels); a classic som tum (papaya) salad (48 shekels); Thai calamari salad with tomatoes (56 shekels); grilled marinated pullet with red curry and sticky rice (78 shekels); chicken breast on the bone, in a marinade of lemon grass, garlic and fennel seeds, with sticky rice (82 shekels); whole fried sea bass served with a sauce of lime, ginger, chili and kaffir lime (120 shekels); and grilled jumbo shrimp with a sauce of galangal, lemon leaves and chili (110 shekels). Plus there is a selection of Asian cocktails to pair with the food.
Beach Club. 5 Herbert Samuel Street, Tel Aviv. Complex opens daily at 7:00 A.M.; Seeyam restaurant opens daily at noon.