Tel Aviv, Miami of the Middle East

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I have been quite busy recently, and stressed. Working a lot, travelling a lot, sometimes back to back, and no much time to play. Exciting places, boring places, some great meals, some embarrassing ones.  My backlog is months long and I have at least 3 or 4 posts I am dying to publish, actually 6 or 7, ok 15 maybe. I was hoping to spend my Easter break between work trips – four days or 96 hours to be precise – quietly blogging on a terrace overlooking the sea, sipping iced lemonade, running by the beach and eating tons of seafood.

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Well, I had a terrace, buckets of iced lemonade – and a few cocktails maybe, but I was technically on holiday, ok? –  went running, sunbathed (read got sunburnt), had seafood and a lot more other foods, but spent no time blogging. Tel Aviv, nicknamed by the Israeli ‘the city that never sleeps’ is the Miami of the middle east, a sophisticated and vibrant metropolis, with miles of sandy beaches, an incredibly interesting dining scene, crazy nightlife and thousand occasions to shop and zero to chill.

Cafe 48 by Chef Jonathan Borowitz, an unpretentious restaurant blending traditional European Jewish cuisine with modern influences – read NYC influences  – was one of the many highlights of my stay in Tel Aviv. The four of us, including my friend and art blogger La Fee Culturelle, ordered a selection of dishes from the A la carte menu and a few specials.  All dishes were incredible, combining the pure flavours of high quality ingredients and flawless execution. It doesn’t happen often I can’t pick a favourite.

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Sizzling calamari, mascarpone, pea puree, bone-marrow vinaigrette.

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Corn bread – my current obsession – in a cheesy and sour cream version.

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Braised short beef sandwich, home-made ketchup, pickled cucumber, red onion.

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Black ink tagliatelle, monkfish.

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Burrata, Oregano, Olive Oil, warm tomatoes.

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Grouper sashimi, almonds, paprika romesco, snow peas.

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Salted chocolate and banana cake.

The following day, still full from the amazing dinner of the night before and slightly hungover, courtesy of the addictive cocktails we had before, during and after dinner, we woke up at dawn – well 8AM – and embarked on a one day exploration of Jerusalem.  The trip to the Israeli capital was pretty smooth, squeezed in a collective taxi amongst other tourists, Chinese workers who couldn’t understand a word of English or Hebrew, and a few locals. We got off the mini van – driven by a slightly temperamental driver – at Damascus Gate, his last stop.

That’s when we realised we were in much need of a caffeine kick, bumped into Ali, who was very willing to sell us his turkish moka and Jaffa orange juices, and pose for a picture of his street stall. Next stop was one (ok, more than one, maybe 5) of the many bakeries scattered around the old town. Coffees and pastries in hand, we sat down to have breakfast and watching people.

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We spent the day walking up and down the Old City, a magical spiritual crossroad for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, briefly stopping for a not very memorable salad for lunch and a Palestinian beer before heading back to Tel Aviv, for dinner, of course.

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Back to Tel Aviv, we headed to Mizlala by Meir Adoni, probably one of the most influential Israeli chefs, next door to his flagship restaurant “Catit” and in front of Cafe 48 (where we had dinner the night before). Mizlala’s menu is influenced by Moroccan, Iraqi-Jewish and Yemeni cuisine, with a modern and interesting twist. One of the most amazing meals I had this year. We loved it so much, we were tempted to go back the following night, and in hindsight, we should totally have. This to me is the unmistakeable sign of a fantastic dinner.

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Veal carpaccio, Buffalo mozzarella, Pickled ginger, Avocado cream, Coriander, Crispy Tortilla, Artichoke.

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Palestinian tartar, Chopped rump steak,Tehini, Pine nuts, Yogurt & Cumin

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Roasted sweet potato & Chestnuts ravioli, Jerusalem artichoke paste, White almonds, shinoki mushroom, Parmesan & Porcini sauce

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Potato noodles, spicy raw beef.

I loved Tel Aviv, the vibe, the food, its creative energy, its kind residents and warm hospitality, where I felt welcome and absolutely safe. I just wish I had more than 96 hours to visit and genuinely can’t wait to go back!

One thought on “Tel Aviv, Miami of the Middle East”

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