Picture the following. Near where Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard intersects with Allenby Street, a fruit store, a sandwich stall, a hummus joint, a fish-and-chips stand, a bakery and a few new branches of familiar eateries like Olivery, Delicious Deli Bar and Dim Sum Station open up.
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Would anyone get excited about that? Would huge crowds stream there? Would food bloggers rush to cover it? I’d like to say “maybe,” but I realize the answer is no. Still, what if all the above didn’t just pop up at the intersection but was bunched together in a single well-branded indoor compound and called a shuk, a market?
Well, it has been a week since the opening of Shuk Rothschild Allenby, and even people who don’t religiously read the food columns could hardly have missed the event. Tel Aviv now has a fourth covered market – to go with the one at the Tel Aviv Port, Sarona Market and Shuk Tzafon in the Ramat Hehayal neighborhood in the north.
Thousands of people, and not just those work or live in the area, have been flooding the new market, and I’m pretty sure most of them wouldn’t have gone there for any one of the food stands. But the fact they were launched together under one roof triggered the standard reaction from our collective Israeli eating disorder. It left us no choice but to rush to see what everyone was talking about.
Shuk Rothschild Allenby, so I’ve read, aspires to be more accessible than its big brothers in terms of both location and prices. Ironically, this is both its big plus and big drawback. On the one hand, there’s no question that its location at the intersection of two main streets in the heart of the city gives it an advantage over the other three.
On the other hand, this part of town already offers so many culinary options, from restaurants like Café Europa and Santa Katarina to street food like American Burgers, Burning Tacos, Susu & Sons and Vitrina. So it’s hard for the shuk to offer interesting alternatives.
Another thing you won’t find there are food stalls associated with famous chefs like Yisrael Aharoni, Jonathan Roshfeld or Yuval Ben Neriah. This is no big deal, but add to that the absence of shops and stalls devoted to specific ingredients like meat and cheeses, and the feeling is that this is basically just a random collection of eateries rather than a real shuk.
The restaurants are due to open soon, but I was interested in the street-food stands. I’ve written about Delicious and Dim Sum Station before, so I set out to try three other places, the ones that had the longest lines when I visited.
I knew Olivery as an Italian restaurant on Ibn Gavirol Street that’s a great place for family meals and gives decent value for money. The branch at the shuk is more a fast-food version with an impressive selection of pizzas, pastas and salads. We ordered slices of mushroom pizza and artichoke pizza (12 shekels [$3.17] each, a very good price), and an order of pasta aglio e olio with “greens” (38 shekels).
The pizzas were very good with a crispy-edged crust, excellent sauce and cheese that absorbed the flavor of the (generously supplied) toppings. The pasta was satisfying too – it was cooked fresh and just right, delicately seasoned, and mixed with a nice amount of asparagus, broccoli and spinach.
Paleo – the name evokes the popular diet trend, and this food stand features a huge grill where all kinds of sausages and meats are prepared. And if you need to have your meat inside dough, you can order it with a soft bun.
I sampled the classic veal sausage (39 shekels), which was quite enjoyable, and an entrecote sandwich (49 shekels), which was quite awful – the entrecote was grilled on the flattop grill and then chopped and mixed with a blend of colored peppers, yielding stringy bits of meat overpowered by the peppers. The juices made the bun a soggy disaster.
At Chipsea King, you can order a cone of calamari, shrimp or fish and chips (38 shekels). Although the vapors from the frying don’t dissipate much in the shuk’s close confines, this seems to be the site’s most successful street-food stall at the moment.
They do things right – they keep the potatoes in ice water before slicing, then double-fry them. They fry the seafood and fish in a batter that’s massively thick but still airy and delicious. The sauces are pretty standard (ketchup, mayonnaise, curry ketchup), but they don’t spoil the fun. If we had started out at this place, we probably would have ordered two cones instead of just one.
So what do we have here? A shuk that’s not exactly a shuk. Food stalls that are familiar from other places. Restaurants that haven’t opened yet. Looking at it another way, we got a very nice pizza and pasta food stall and a yummy fish-and-chips place on Rothschild Boulevard. We can certainly be glad about that at least.
Shuk Rothschild Allenby, at 36 Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv.
Open daily 7 A.M. to 2 A.M.