I’m sitting at our dining room table, and I’ve positioned my chair to face the kitchen window. The yellow curtain is tied back, and I’m in clear view of the rain pouring down on our garden. It’s warm and cozy indoors and it reminds me of evenings at my best friend’s house; her little children tucked away in their beds, and us sitting on a purple couch with a blanket, unwinding. There’s no playlist for these evenings, but we have the menu down: on my way over, I pick up coffee ice cream. After a hug, we’ll pop a bottle of champagne in the freezer and settle down on the couch to order sushi from Sushi Rehavia. It’s no Yakimono, but it’s always fresh and it’s reasonably priced. In any case, sushi, sometimes, is less about perfection and more about being the ultimate delivery food- healthy and light, with no threat of arriving at a less-than-ideal temperature.
My little brother told me about Sushi Rehavia’s new city center location, and when my sister-in-law and I strolled around town searching for a place for lunch, we decided to give it a try. The location, on a winding side street, is extremely spacious, with ample seating both indoors and outdoors. The structure, covered with Jerusalem stone is lined with bamboo plants, and boasts a modern interior. A large, colorful aquarium greeted us at the entrance. We sat on one of the little corner sofas, with my adorable nephew between us, nibbling on edamame pods. Our Business Lunch, which included a generously-sized appetizer (we shared the edamame and the tempura mushrooms), a sushi roll and a scoop of sorbet, was a steal at 44 nis ($12.50).
On one of my last evenings in Israel, I drove down to Tel-Aviv with Bruno and Benjamin, my oldest and youngest brothers, to have dinner at Deca. In the car, we discussed what we were planning to order. I wanted the skewer of grilled vegetables, marinated in a teriyaki sauce, and perched atop three different cheeses, lavishly drizzled with date honey and nuts. I also had my heart set on the Tuna Carpaccio, a stunning dish of thinly sliced tuna, topped with little dollops of roasted eggplant and tahini, and garnished with olives and radishes. Benjamin wanted the Mushroom Gnocchi, and Bruno didn’t want to join our conversation, other than saying that I was so predictable.
The car enters one of Tel Aviv’s industrial areas, and pulls up in a parking lot opposite a plain-looking structure that’s easy to overlook if you’re not searching expressly for it. Upon entering, the ambiance is rather somber, and the place is surprisingly (disconcertingly?) empty. The interior’s unapologetic concrete walls are embellished as they meet the ceiling with concrete tiles boasting arabesque detailing, entering into dialogue with the local cultural context, and providing the perfect backdrop for Chef Tom Kabalo’s modern Mediterranean menu. The room is enlivened by a narrow glass window, through which you can see the cooks in fast movement, whipping out dishes they present on the ledge with a discrete tap of a bell.
It starts with the bread. The waiter describes the little dishes as he places them on our table: a tiny dish of olives, a dish of tomato salsa, a spoon-shaped dish with goat cheese topped with a single roasted garlic clove, and butter so spectacular it was hard to control ourselves.
We ordered ravenously: the Mullet Kebabs with Tahini tasted of a traditional Israeli barbeque, transporting me to the backyard of my husband’s childhood, while the finger-sized, deep-fried Mediterranean Red Mullet smelled of the ocean, and was accompanied by a refreshing kohlrabi and mint slaw. The Grilled Vegetable Skewer was as delightful as my memory of it, the vegetables grilled to perfection, their teriyaki-infused juices spilling onto the cheeses, ripe and delicious. The Chef sent out a complimentary Pumpkin Carpaccio, perhaps due to the disappointment I expressed when our waiter told us they were out of the Tuna Carpaccio. The Carpaccio consisted of thinly sliced pickled pumpkin circling a large white plate, atop which danced tiny mozzarella balls. The dish was strewn with pumpkin seeds and sunflower sprouts, and finished with a heavy douse of olive oil. Colorful and gorgeous in its simplicity, the dish gave me pause. It’s one of those dishes that make you want to go home and rethink your style of cooking, if something so simple to make can be so incredibly beautiful.*
We were only beginning. My main course of Pine Nut and Almond Gnocchi with a sauce of Camembert and shallots, infused with sage and honey, was of the dreaminess I had wished for at Adom. The moment I pierced one with my fork, to have it meet just the slightest resistance, I knew it would taste perfect. And it did. My little brother, who made us laugh throughout the meal with his questions about etiquette, had the Potato Gnocchi with a cream and mushroom sauce. Now, mushrooms are possibly my favorite vegetable, and cream and mushroom sauce is my usual fallback in restaurants when I order a pasta dish. For a dish I’ve had so many times, it’s hard to surprise me. This one did; the sauce was a rich, light brown from the addition of pureed mushrooms, and was studded with pieces of sautéed Portobello mushrooms. Although I couldn’t discern a difference between my Pine Nut and Almond Gnocchi and Benjamin’s Potato Gnocchi, both were equally delicious and melted in the mouth. Bruno, orchestrator of this decadent feast, had the Grey Mullet Fillet, which was served on a bed of ultra-creamy mashed potatoes, doused with a red wine sauce and topped with fried leeks. Gorgeous.
For dessert, we shared a crème brulee, shattering upon the touch of a spoon, revealing a luscious interior. The stacked passion fruit pavlova, although slightly too sweet, was beautifully presented.
If I can add only one restaurant to your list of places to try in Israel, this is it.
6 Rabbi Akiva Street and other locations
(02) 567-1791 delivery
Price Range: Moderate
10 Hataasiya Street
Price Range: Moderate to Expensive
*I promise to make this at home for you soon, so that you can visualize it.
** I’m so sorry for the lack of photos, but it allowed me to really be in the moment with my two brothers. I couldn’t keep myself from telling you about it though!