Who Has the Best Hamantaschen in Tel Aviv?

In recent years the traditional Purim sweet has been subjected to some very nontraditional twists including sugar-free dough, chocolate chili filling and even savory versions.

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Once again we have accepted the onerous burden of tasting samples of the filled pastry known in these parts as ozney haman offered by some local cafes and bakeries. Yes, a few of us may have overdosed on poppy seeds, proving that the traditional fillings are still around, but everyone knows that investigative reporters sometimes have to make sacrifices in order to get their story. Read on for the ratings.

Score: 10 – Piece of Cake

Piece of Cake bakes hamantaschen on-site in a wide and interesting variety of fillings. They include classics and near-classics such as poppy seeds, dates nuts, chocolate and apple pie; specialties such as Florentine chocolate - bittersweet chocolate with pistachios, raspberries and candied almonds on a base of marzipan and chocolate with nuts; and "health" hamantaschen, with a 100-percent- whole-wheat pastry and a dried-fruit filling.

What we tasted: poppy seed, nut, apple pie, raspberry and pistachio, Florentine and "health" hamantaschen.

Our opinion: Piece of Cake? More like a piece of paradise. Perfect, flaky dough, moderately sweet, delicate and not heavy, cradles and complements the filling. The chocolate filling was rich, with a wonderful texture, the Florentine were excellent but so full of good things that it's impossible to eat more than one. The apple-pie filling was interesting. Pistachio and raspberry was a winning combination of sweet and sour, and the poppy seed was fresh and tasty. After devouring the delivery the tasters rocked back in their chairs, licking their fingers and murmuring, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing. A must.

Price: classic fillings NIS 70 per kilogram; special fillings NIS 35 for 350 grams; health NIS 35 for 330 grams

Piece of Cake: 17 Yehuda Hayamit St. , Jaffa; 46 Hamelekh George St., Tel Aviv

Score: 9.5 – Dallal Bakery Shop

The Dallal Bakery Shop collection for Purim 2013 boasts hamantaschen with fillings that include poppy seed and chocolate cream with chocolate chips, pistachio cream with Amarena cherries and almond and date cream.
What we tasted: the chocolate, poppy seed and pistachio cream with Amarena cherries.

Our opinion: The big winner was unquestionably the pistachio and candied cherry filling. The flavors are so surprising, refreshing and unique it's hard to even believe that it's a hamantasch. The delicate taste of the pistachio ranges from marzipan to almond croissant, the Amarena cherries studding the filling makes it nearly perfect and the whole thing is wrapped in exactly the right amount of flaky, delicious pastry. The chocolate filling was sweet and wonderful.

Dallal Bakery Shop.
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Lachmanina.Credit: Yanai Yechiel
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Dallal Bakery Shop.Credit: Tali Schiffer
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Bakery.Credit: Idit Ben Ulliel

Price: NIS 3 each, 14 for NIS 36

Dallal Bakery Shop: 7 Kol Yisrael Haverim St., Tel Aviv

Score: 9.5 – Lachmanina

Lachmanina celebrates Purim with both decadent and health-conscious options. The former include hamantaschen with flaky butter pastry and fillings of poppy seed, dates and nuts or Belgian chocolate. The latter is a poppy-seed-filled pastry with a butter-based, spelt-flour dough.

What we tasted: Regular hamantaschen with a Belgian chocolate filling, spelt hamantaschen filled with poppy seeds.

Our opinion: Lachmanina certainly knows how to bring us Purim joy. The flaky hamantaschen with a rich chocolate filling is simple but as good as it gets. Like this bakery's wheat hamantaschen, Lachmanina's spelt pastry doesn't crumble, it simply melts in your mouth. The result is surprising and pleasant, and while it tastes like health food it is nevertheless enjoyable. We suspect that Lachmanina sprinkles their hamantaschen with love as well as powdered sugar.

Price: NIS 35 per box
Lachmanina: 14 Kreminitsky St., Tel Aviv

Score: 9 – Shany Coffee and Bakery

The Shany Coffee and Bakery chain offers hamantaschen from a variety of pastry doughs as well as sugar-free hamantaschen and, new this year, the spice series. The collection includes fillings such as chocolate and chili; espresso and cardamom ("hel"); carrot and cinnamon; hamantaschen with Pressburger dough filled with dried fruit, honey and ginger; along with classic fillings such as nuts, halvah, dates and Rosemarie chocolate (chocolate with hazelnut).

What we tasted: chocolate and chili; espresso and cardamom; carrot and cinnamon; dried fruit, honey and ginger.

Our opinion: Shany Coffee and Bakery placed first in creativity, for the most interesting of all the fillings we tasted. The chocolate chili deserves a special mention: each bite delivers a fiery aftertaste (not to everyone's liking). The espresso and cardamom was like Turkish coffee in a cookie, in the best possible sense. Simply brilliant. The carrot and cinnamon was less sweet than we expected and reminded us of the masala chai we drank in India. Unfortunately the ginger did not come through enough in the dried fruit, honey and ginger filling.

Price: NIS 36 for a 400-gram box

Shany Coffee and Bakery: 29 Trumpeldor Blvd., Haifa; 53 Derekh Ha'atzmaut, Haifa; 83 Derekh Moshe Sharett, Kiryat Haim

Score: 9 – Roladin Bakery and Cafe

The Roladin Bakery and Cafe chain's hamantaschen collection for Purim 2013 includes: butter-rich cookie dough filled with halvah praline or prunes marinated in silan date honey, enriched with almond cream; cookie dough with a poppy seed filling and double chocolate hamantaschen.

What we tasted: the prune with silan, nuts in caramel and the praline halvah fillings, the double chocolate hamantasch.

Our opinion: The prune and silan filling was very sweet. The flavor of the silan rather overpowered the prunes. The nuts in caramel filling was good and reminded us of a nut pie with a tasty crust. The halvah in the praline halvah filling ranged from creamy to chunky, and there were surprises inside, such as chocolate chips. Simple and fun.

Price: NIS 9.90 per 100 grams

Roladin Bakery and Café: For the full list of branches go to http://www.roladin.co.il/Branches

Score: 8.5 – Bakery and Delicatessen

Bakery and Delicatessen, from the restaurateurs behind Coffee Bar, Brasserie and Hotel Montefiore, among others, serve up hamantaschen with poppy seed and rich nut fillings.

What we tasted: Hamataschen with poppy seed and nut cream fillings, of course.

Our opinion: We'll start by saying that the Bakery hamantaschen are distinguished by the very high filling-to-dough ratio of a proper Purim pastry. About all we can say about the poppy seed filling is that it's nice. The nut cream filling was delicate and tasty. The hidden surprises - raisins – made us hungry for more.

Price: poppy seed – NIS 26; nuts – NIS 32

Bakery: 13 Yad Harutzim St., Tel Aviv; 72 Ibn Gabirol St., Tel Aviv
Delicatessen: 81 Yehuda Halevy St., Tel Aviv

Score: 8.5 – Lehamim Bakery

Lehamim bakery produces several varieties of hamantaschen. They include ones with a pastry dough of butter and ground almonds and fillings of classic poppy seed, chocolate crème patisserie, vanilla and chocolate-chip crème patisserie, date-and-nut and Napoleon hat (filled with a marzipan ball); savory hamantaschen with fillings of candied sweet potato or herbed potatoes; and spelt hamantaschen filled with vanilla crème patisserie.

What we tasted: Napoleon hat, chocolate crème patisserie, poppy seed, date- and-nut, vanilla and chocolate-chip crème patisserie; spelt pastry with vanilla crème patisserie; candied sweet potato and herbed potato fillings.

Our opinion: Rule No. 1 – Whenever you think it's impossible to come up with anything new, you're in for another surprise. Lehamim has created a hamantasch with a chocolate crème patisserie filling that is a wonderful twist on the near-classic chocolate filling. The chocolate is like a half-baked, half-liquid/half-solid brownie. The generously sized marzipan ball of the Napoleon hat filling had a delicate, ideally balanced almond flavor, but it's for marzipan-lovers only. The spelt pastry was too thin and throat-chokingly dry, despite the generous amount of cream, and was not more than "nice." The savory hamantaschen had good, tasty fillings, in the right proportions, and would be a great appetizer.

Price: NIS 11.5 per 100 grams, NIS 4.5 each for regular or spelt, NIS 6 each for savory.

Lehamim: Main branch, 99 Hehashmonaim St., Tel Aviv; Tel Aviv Port food market; 11 Hacarmel St., Tel Aviv

Score: 8.5 – Lehem Yayin

Lehem Yayin bakery and cafe offers hamantaschen with fillings of poppy seed, milk chocolate, halvah and date- walnut, as well as a sugar-free poppy seed variety.

What we tasted: Chocolate and halvah fillings.

Our opinion: Lehem Yayin's hamantaschen are small enough that you can eat a few without guilt pangs. The chocolate filling was very sweet but not excessively so, with a simple, unsophisticated flavor. The halvah filling was good but somewhat dry. The dough was buttery and flaky.

Price: NIS 27 for 200 grams

Lehem Yayin: 4 Derekh Hahoresh Africa-Israel House, Kiryat Savyonim, Yehud

Score: 8 – Brown Bistro

Brown Bistro offers a selection of hamantaschen created by pastry chef Avi Melamedson, such as a flaky almond pastry with walnut and poppy seed fillings and a flaky chocolate pastry with a halvah and Valrhona chocolate cream filling.

What we tasted: The walnut and the halvah and Valrhona chocolate fillings.

Our opinion: The pastry, both the almond and chocolate varieties, were perfectly flaky, in a good way of course. The poppy seed filling was nice but fell short of the pastry surrounding it. The chocolate dough was more balanced and the halvah filling was tasty but not very special.

Price: NIS 17 for 100 grams

Brown Bistro: 10 Nissim Aloni St., G Tzameret Complex, Tel Aviv

Score: 8 – Biscotti Bakery

Biscotti Bakery is launching a line of handmade hamantaschen made with buttery cookie dough in a variety of fillings that include nougat, homemade poppy seed, bittersweet Belgian chocolate, halvah and pistachio and date-nut.

What we tasted: Nougat, poppy seed, chocolate, halvah and pistachio, date-nut.

Our opinion: The pastry is pleasantly flaky and buttery; some of the chocolate, date and poppy seed fillings were too sweet. The nougat filling reminded us of nothing more than a popular candy bar, melted into an envelope of dough. The halvah and pistachio filling, on which we had pinned our hopes, was a disappointment: less tasty than expected, and thirst-inducing.

Price: NIS 35 for 300 grams

Biscotti Bakery: 67 Hayarkon St., Bnei Brak

Score: 7.5 – Shemo Bakery
The Shemo Bakery chain serves up hamantaschen cookies with such fillings as poppy seed, nuts, Medjool dates, chocolate, maple-pecan, meringue and brandy, prunes in wine and marzipan, as well as yeast pastry versions with fillings of nuts, poppy seeds, ricotta-raisin and crème patisserie chocolate-chip. That's not all: There are hamantaschen made with sugar-free cookie dough and filled with poppy seeds or nuts, and also savory hamantaschen with sweet-potato or pesto and cheese fillings.

What we tasted: Chocolate, date and prune fillings and both savory varieties.

Our opinion: The date hamantasch was outstanding. The combination of dates and a melt-in-your-mouth pastry made for a surprising and wonderful hamantasch. The chocolate filling was nice but not extraordinary. The pastry of the pesto and cheese filling was nice, and there was the right amount of cheese, but we couldn't help asking whether it would be better to just stick with the traditional Turkish burekitas that it recalled.

Price: Regular, NIS 32 for 350 grams; sugar-free, NIS 35 for 350 grams; yeast dough or savory, NIS 7 for 100 grams

Shemo Bakery: Locations in Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, Haifa and Kiryat Haim

Score: 7.5 – Movieing Cafe
Movieing Café - that's not a typo, it's an allusion to the DVD rentals that are part of the place's business model – welcomes Purim this year with sweet hamantaschen whose filling choices include poppy seed, chocolate with touches of white chocolate, and dried blueberry with almond cream; and a savory variety filled with smoked mozzarella and walnuts and with a touch of poppy seeds in the dough.

What we tasted: poppy seed and blueberry fillings.

Our opinion: Movieing pastry has a strong lemony presence that some of us liked and others, not so much. The poppy seed filling was nice, but the dough was a little too flaky, with a somewhat unpleasant texture and an overly nutty flavor. The blueberry filling was weird and tasted more like raisins than blueberries: Perhaps they were actually currants? It wouldn't be the first time we've seen the Hebrew words for each confused. The bottom line: sometimes it's better to go light on the lemon.

Price: NIS 3 each for sweet, NIS 4 for savory.

Movieing Café: 25 Yirmiyahu St., Tel Aviv

Score: 7 – Metuka

This year the Metuka bakery and café chain is focusing on poppy seeds for Purim. The offerings include hamantaschen with poppy seeds in the dough and fillings of poppy seeds, raisins and walnuts; poppy seeds and bittersweet chocolate; poppy seeds and cherries; poppy seeds and apples. The somewhat more traditional offerings include hamantaschen with cinnamon-spiced dough, filled with dates and walnuts; marble dough, filled with chocolate fudge and sesame-seed-studded cookie dough filled with halvah.

What we tasted: A selection of the poppy-seeded dough varieties and the marble hamantasch.

Our opinion: The marble pastry had a dreamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture that made us forget this pretty cookie's rather controversial flavor. It is not especially sweet and the chocolate filling was somewhat boring, but there's no question that it was an experience. The thin, buttery envelope of the halvah-filled hamantasch hit exactly the right note between flaky and melt-in-your-mouth. The halvah filling was very good and the pastry was a good foil for it.

Price: NIS 32 for 20, NIS 59 for 36 units

Metuka: Branches in Tel Aviv and Kfar Sava

Score: 7 – Lehem Erez

The Lehem Erez chain offers handmade hamantaschen with poppy seed, halvah, date and chocolate fillings in a preservative-free cookie dough made with cream and butter.

What we tasted: Chocolate hamantaschen.

Our opinion: This sweet treat, made with chocolate dough filled with chocolate and with powdered sugar did not feel like a hamantasch at all, but like a well-made chocolate-chip cookie. We failed to distinguish between dough and filling, which melted together in the baking process. Bottom line: the triangular shape is only a gimmick.

Price: NIS 35 for 360 grams.

Lehem Erez: 15 branches in greater Tel Aviv and Haifa

Score: 7 – Sweet Arts

Sweet Arts offers hamantaschen in a variety of fillings that includes halvah, chocolate, poppy seeds, date and blueberry-ricotta.

What we tasted: The chocolate and the blueberry fillings.

Our opinion: Sweet Arts' chocolate hamantasch had a flaky pastry that crumbles in the mouth and an outstanding texture, but the lumpy texture and slight aftertaste of the chocolate filling dragged down the final grade. The blueberry-ricotta filling was nice, just sweet and sour enough, but not exciting.

Price: NIS 28 for 250-300 grams

Sweet Arts: 11 Heharoshet St., Ramat Hasharon Industrial Zone

Roladin Bakery and Cafe.Credit: Ronen Mangan

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