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Cæsarea As a UNESCO World Heritage site, visitors can appreciate the ruins with nearby cafés and a Time Tower.

Back to Israel-ity

continued

Speaking of Bible study, who would have thought that the sustenance of mankind’s forefathers could also be so progressive? Moshe Basson brings his edible history lesson to his internationally acclaimed restaurant Eucalyptus, located at the edge of Old Jerusalem. While it has a standard menu, to get to Basson’s heart and soul, order the King David’s Feast. At US$50, or ₪167, it’s a fantastic value for such an expansive, elegant meal heightened by his storytelling and discussion of Chefs for Peace, comprised of local chefs from all backgrounds and religions. For lunch on the fly, on the inside of the Jaffa gate of the old city, don’t pass up the opportunity to custom-build your own chicken shawarma or falafel sandwich at St Raphael Restaurant—‘the Emperor of Shawarma’.

While Givat Ram, Jerusalem’s government seat, also flows with young professionals and a surprisingly eclectic assortment of boutiques, Adom is a must-do with its lovely after-dark scene and original cocktail recipes taking full advantage of fresh local fruit. Zuni (15 Yoel Salomon Street) attracts similar customers who like their cocktails creative. In contrast, there’s nothing fancy at Glen (Shlomtzion Ha Malka Street 18)—just classic rock and extensive listing of quality craft beers, whiskies and waitresses who know a thing or two about the proper way to prepare and drink absinthe.

Given my short stay in Tel Aviv, my pre-trip research leads to my finding a kindred spirit with American-born Andrea Mann of top travel and event-planning service TLV VIP and the company’s posh English-speaking web sites (www.tlv-vip.com and www.tastetlv.com). Like me, her passion for travel stems from being a self-proclaimed foodie with fashionista proclivities. Though blending in with locals is always a concern, going with the flow is remarkably simple.

‘If you’re interested in talking to locals, always choose to sit at the bar—-not a secluded table,’ advises Mann. ‘Israelis are genuine, so whether you’re dining at a nice restaurant or just grabbing an evening drink, bartenders and other restaurant patrons will almost always spark up a conversation and start offering you travel tips when they hear you speaking in English. Seriously, don’t be surprised or taken aback if they offer to show you around for the day or invite you to their family’s Friday night dinner. They have a lot of pride in their country and culture, so Israelis jump at the opportunity to show off the country’s magic.’

Though Mann resides in Tel Aviv, proximate to the oft-recommended shopping haunts and café society of Dizengoff Street, she likes to kick back in Basel Square, in the Old North section of town. Her go-to food spots include Lulu at 5 Elkali Street, La Bonne Patisserie at Basel 40 for a morning croissant or afternoon quiche, Ashtori Café for coffee and great people watching and a cute cheese shop called Gourmet Shop, owned by Michael Rafaël, a Frenchman who is not shy about dispensing samples and entertaining advice. Seeing there is a need for a small break from hummus and shawarma, Mann chooses Ze Sushi for our lunch spot, especially as several of the items, such as the triangular “sandwich”-style sushi, is done with a local edge and pairs either with sake or Israeli chardonnay.

A few blocks north of Basel Square and a few blocks southeast of the Tel Aviv port, the ambitious visitor will find Yirmiyahu Street, easily identifiable by locals waiting for a table at the sought-after Jeremiah Café, according to Mann. The overflow will typically walk across the street and find a table at Movieing Café, which offers a DVD library upstairs. ‘If you walk east down Yirmiyahu, you will have a selection of local hummus joints, Hungarian blintzes, Ruben’s Deli (amazing deli sandwiches),’ adds Mann. ‘This area is a street food lovers’ paradise.’

As a natural treasure hunter, I found the twice-weekly Arts and Crafts Bazaar of Nahlat Binyamin Pedestrian Mall (staged every Tuesday and Friday) to be a delightful buffet of temping silver jewellery, ceramic and home accessories. Aside from seriously cool decorator pieces for the home, I found one-of-a-kind pieces by designers like Simona Azriel to be tempting. Though her work is available at different boutiques, the advantage of seeing Azriel in this setting is that she can customize one of her millefiori pieces on the spot, and with disarming honesty, steer you toward the piece that best suits your coloring and personality.

‘Many visitors don’t realize Neve Tzedek [Oasis of Justice] is actually Tel Aviv’s first neighbourhood,’ notes San Francisco-based Ruti Zisser, who operates Israeli fashion-focused Ruti Boutiques and always keeps a pulse on what is happening in Israeli fashion and lifestyle trends. ‘In last years it has been rediscovered by artists and designers and became a beautiful place to walk in and see the old sweet pastel houses where many fashion, art and unique concept stores are spread around.’

Yael Adar of the Gems in Israel website believes HaTachana, a restored 1890s railway station on the edge of old Jaffa, fits the bill. Besides the conglomeration of boutiques and cafés, it also has a most helpful tourist information centre offering a mix of interesting maps and brochures. Seductive retail opportunities include Razili, showcasing the innovations made by different young Israeli fashion designers. The station is also home to Lalo Treasures, stocking wonderful, affordable one-of-a-kind home and fashion accessories, as well as an Ahava concept store (known for its Dead Sea-sourced beauty products), Ronan Chen, Charlie Paloma and Michal Negrin.

Though a few short years ago, Dizengoff Street was almost written off as a pedestrian mall full of bridal shops, Israeli designers and their fans have brought the commercial thoroughfare back from the brink in a flurry of colour, girly frocks and architectural silhouettes. Labels represented along the way include swimwear designers Gideon Oberson and Lea Gottleib of Gottex fame, Ruby Star, Rhus Ovata, Agnes & Tamar, Alef Alef, Gusta, Anna K., Anya Flee and a slew of shoe designers that prove footwear innovation is several steps beyond familiar brands Teva and Naot (Inbal Raviv, Michal Miller, Shani Bar and Lady Gaga’s favourite, Kobi Levi).

Israel’s eclectic and colourful fashion philosophy translates to several of Tel Aviv’s better restaurants. Chef Daniel Zach’s romantic, cottage-y Carmella a real find, with such delicious selections trout with wine butter sauce on black wild rice and mustard, cured sirloin on arugula and goose liver paté, meant to be paired with some of Israeli’s best boutique wines. Though Herbert Samuel was an early 20th century British government official and leading Zionist, there is nothing old or stodgy about the restaurant bearing his name. Yonatan Roshfeld, its chef, charges forward into a new era of Israeli cuisine, from its futuristic attic kitchen to unexpected East Asian and European influences to hotshot mixology. The overall effect is flawless and the waitstaff is superhumanly calm and attentive.

Nana, created by boutique hotelier Golad Dor, offers a taste of upscale neighbourhood Neveh Zedek’s “good life”, along with hand-picked boutique Israeli wines and straight-forward cocktails. Nanuchka (28 Lilenblum Street) is a free-wheeling party central alive with energy, karaoke, percussionists, oldies DJs and some highly unusual but nicely balanced cocktails, where Middle Eastern spirits tango with those of Russia and Mexico(!). Rosa Parks (Dizengof 265), thanks to its 25-plus clientèle, is also a favourite spot among cocktail fans in the know.

Beyond the sometimes-intimidating spectre of religion and politics, you will find yourself falling in love with Israel once you get to know it well, and on your own terms. Or more aptly put, don’t let any fears, concerns or media spin stop you from enjoying what she has to offer. It certainly has not stopped the Israelis from making the best of things. •

 

For more information on Israel, visit www.goisrael.com, and for information on flights into Israel, visit www.elal.co.il.

 

 


Elyse Glickman is US West Coast Editor for Lucire.


Urban Tel Aviv


Lulu Basel Square


Old Jerusalem shopping


Michal Negrin


Basel Square boutique


Mamilla Hotel and Mall at dusk




Craft fair


Laline


Puasa breakfast

 

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