What they're eating in Tel Aviv

Crab, kebabs and kohlrabi: the dining scene in Israel’s biggest city has it all.

By Rita Goldstein
Published 2 Aug 2019, 18:00 BST
Sabich, Pita Panda.
Sabich, Pita Panda.
Photograph by Aviv Shkuri

Basta: Crab börek 
Carmel Market, the city’s largest, is home to a number of great restaurants, including Basta. The vibe and decor are informal, but the food is refined. Here, the best seafood, meat and vegetables from the market are incorporated into creative dishes. The crab börek is a wonderful East-meets-West dish — a buttery pastry filled with sweet crab meat, thick butter sauce and crab eggs. This version costs way more than the simple street food borek, but it’s worth every shekel. 

Dok: Coal-baked kohlrabi
This intimate restaurant is effectively chef/owner Asaf Doktor’s culinary research lab for local food culture and ingredients, serving some of the city’s most creative dishes, alongside excellent Israeli wines. Among the signature dishes is the coal-baked kohlrabi, served with Tzfat cheese, thyme, poppy seeds and hot green peppers. It can also be found at Asaf’s two other restaurants, Ha’achim and Abie. 

Panda Pita: Sabich
A Carmel Market street food institution, Panda Pita sells pittas with fillings such as ceviche and minced meat. Pick of the bunch is a version of traditional Israeli sabich — bread (kept on a steamer so it’s warm and fluffy) filled with sweet, soft, slow-cooked aubergine, fresh beetroot chutney, grated egg, tahini and salad. 

Santa Katarina: Basbousa
Located behind the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv, Santa Katarina has a menu full of wonderfully original dishes such as labneh ravioli, and kubenyia (raw chopped beef tenderloin with zucchini and mustard). However, one of the standout dishes is a dessert called basbousa, a warm, sweet and sticky semolina cake. Here, it’s served warm with ice cream containing mastic, which gives it both an interesting flavour and an elastic texture. 

Jasmino: Sweetbread Kebab
Don’t be fooled by its appearance; a huge amount of love and attention goes into the food at this hole-in-the-wall joint. Various meats can be found sizzling on the grill, including heart and sweetbreads — types of offal rarely encountered in Tel Aviv. The kebabs’ subtle spicing allows the flavour of the grilled meat to sing, and be sure to try the tangy amba (mango sauce). Be prepared to queue. 

Published in the September 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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