In an era of the CrossFit fitness company and perpetual dieting, it’s all too easy to blame bread for making us portly. And chefs in Israel and abroad are feeding this trend, as it were.
Maybe it’s part of a larger move toward proper nutrition, or maybe it’s something mysterious. Either way, the chefs are removing bread from their menus.
So how are we supposed to sop up that last drop of gravy? And how could we serve a meal, let alone sate our hunger, without bread? It’s often the best part of the meal.
The following are seven great breads in Israel – five in Tel Aviv and two not too far away.
The house bread at Edna
Ramat Hasharon’s Edna restaurant, which serves Persian cuisine, has been a place of pilgrimage for decades. It started out as a small kiosk owned by a Edna Ne’eman in what used to be a small and quiet farming community.
One thing that hasn’t changed since 1958 is the house bread. The thick, moist and meaty slices of onion bread, more like cake than bread, are served with pickled eggplant dip and butter. The intoxicating aroma of the onion and yeast can be detected from far afield, especially in the morning. Devotees will tell you the stuff even has its own fan club.
10 shekels for half a loaf.
Edna, 3 Trumpeldor St., Ramat Hasharon
Steamed rolls at Taizu
While Asian cuisine doesn’t offer Mideast varieties of bread, steamed carbohydrates can be just as worthwhile as baked ones. Chef Yuval Ben Neriah’s wonderful steamed rolls, prepared in a small steaming basket, bring to earth the flavor and texture of a cloud.
The tomato chutney rolls, which do a lovely zigzag among the Indian flavors of spicy, sweet and salty, steal the show. If a delicately spicy cloud is what you’re after, you won’t be able to have just one.
18 shekels for three delicious rolls.
Taizu, 18 Menachem Begin St., Tel Aviv
The Cubana at Mizlala
Zvia’s Cubana bread, which is served at star chef Meir Adoni’s Mizlala restaurant, has already been dubbed “Yemenite brioche” — crunchy and dark on the outside; soft, delicate and buttery on the inside, and every inch astonishingly good.
At Mizlala, the stuff is served with heaps of samneh (clarified butter), which renders it even more decadent, together with a dip of crushed tomatoes (or the restaurant’s own version of tomato paste), olive oil and spicy green pepper to provide balance.
33 shekels for Zvia’s Cubana.
Mizlala, 57 Nahalat Binyamin St., Tel Aviv
Farna at Gedera 26
This traditional Moroccan bread got its name from the oven in which it’s baked — known as hafarna in Moroccan Arabic. Following the traditional method, the farna at Gedera 26 is baked on pebbles; the result is a kind of hybrid pita with a soft crust on the outside and a soft, plump inside.
At Gedera 26, the farna is also lightly seared on the grill for a bit of crunchiness and served with two dips: coriander pesto and tahini. You also might want to dip it in the seafood kubbeh, which is stuffed with goat cheese and shrimp.
The farna is served free in the evening.
Gedera 26, 26 Gedera St., Tel Aviv
Smoked beet and black-pepper bread at Hamara
Beet and black-pepper bread makes a spectacular appearance at Rehovot’s Hamara restaurant. It’s an incredible reddish-pink whose crunchy cracked crust conceals the delicate sweetness of smoked beets. And don’t forget the airy texture that’s almost never seen in sourdough bread.
Hamara matches all this goodness with ingredients such as sardines and vegetables for a dreamy sandwich. When beet bread isn’t in stock, go for one of Hamara’s baguettes — the best in Israel.
Eight shekels for a portion of bread.
Hamara, 210 Herzl St., Rehovot
Beer bread at Cafe Xoho
Cafe Xoho’s beer bread is so good that people order it days in advance and wait on line. Yes, it’s bread with beer, and at Cafe Xoho they put in yummy extras like seeds and veggies.
60 shekels a loaf.
Cafe Xoho, 17 Y.L. Gordon St., Tel Aviv
Bukharan bread at Hanan Margilan
The folks at Hanan Margilan — the best Bukharan restaurant in Israel — realized that not much competes with the Bukharan Bread Bakery at Tel Aviv’s Hatikva Market. Imagine bread the size and shape of a vinyl record with a thin but hard crust of dough at the center — crispy as a biscuit but airy and meaty at the edges, which are filled with white bread.
At a time when white flour has become a dietary pariah, the Bukharan bread at Hanan Margilan is a tiny nature reserve for sinners. Don’t forget to order the house salads with it; for just 15 shekels they’ll cover every square inch of your table.
10 shekels for Bukharan bread. Half-loaves are also available.
Hanan Margilan, 15 Mesilat Yesharim St., Tel Aviv