Category Archives: Israel

Osaka: Sushi heaven?

When Rosh Chodesh Adar rolls around, I start hankering for fish. I don’t know if this is really related to the cosmic alignments or not, but I go with the flow. And this year I not only had a tyvia for fish but for sushi in particular. Now, I grew up in California, LA to be specific, and well, we get some great sushi. The fish is so fresh and tasty, it is hard to compare anywhere short of Japan. Israel is a different story. For the most part the only locally available fish are fresh water or very small sea water fish. They pale in comparison to the fatty and rich deep water fish such as salmon and tuna. But, thanks to air shipping, we get some of these fish too.

When deciding on a sushi restaurant ,I immediately started looking beyond Modiin. Our local sushi spot leaves much to be desired, although they do deliver. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to make the trek up the hill to Jtown. So I asked around and the consensus that I got was, head for Raanana. Surprisingly there are quite the choices when it came to sushi in Raanana, but since we wanted to go out as a date I chose, supposedly, the nicer place, Osaka.

We were not disappointed at all. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but the owners have obviously spent some time and money dressing the inside up nicely. I am a sucker for a nice looking restaurant.  It took a while for us to delve through the three page menu plus additional specials. Mainly, because it is hard to establish how much sushi you need to order to get full and not over eat. I have a problem. If there is sushi before me, I can’t stop myself, I have to finish it. But Osaka’s specials were a great deal: one starter and a main plus dessert. We decided on one special with a main of sushi and some additional roll that weren’t on the specials menu but looked interesting never the less.

I was very excited to get our chicken tempura; however, when it arrived I was decidedly less so. They used ground chicken and added cumin to the mix. It was a fusion of Asian and Mediterranean gone wrong. But we stuck it out, waiting for our sushi. One thing about the restaurant is that you can see into the kitchen, which is great because I love seeing how many chefs and cooks there are, how they work etc. But the restaurant manager was nervous by my furtive glances and repeatedly came to assure us that the sushi is coming. Finally my husband explained that he just has a curious wife.

The sushi finally came, and it was delicious. The fish was fresh and really tender. The rice, which for me is one of the most important elements, was properly cooked and seasoned. Not out of the world great, but more than acceptable for Israeli standards. One comment I did have was that the rolls, especially the vegetable rolls, seemed to lack a little bit of rice. I would have like to seen them a bit more full. The tempura rolls were amazing and the nigiri was properly packed, so it was easy to dip and eat.

I was surprise how full I was after the sushi, and when dessert came, I could only take a couple of bites. The apple pie, which is made in-house, was delicious. I only wished I could have eaten more.

All around, Osaka is nice place to go out. There are plenty of sushi options and non sushi options for non-fish people. Nice surroundings and pleasant staff made this date a wonderful experience.


Hipo Felafel: Organic Felafel in Tel Aviv

soem of the best organic felafel in Tel Aviv

I am going to admit it here so we get thing all out in the open, I LOVE STREET FOOD. If you can buy it on the street and preferably on a stick I love it. Yes, I also love fancy, gourmet food that is lovingly prepared by qualified chefs, and homemade food is to die for. But there is something about street food that just gets me going.

In Israel the national (although this is contested by many Palestinians) food is falafel. Heck, they even use them as symbols for rank in the military. As part of my patriotic duty, I love falafel. So when my friend told me about a great organic falafel place on Ibn Gvirol, I just had to try it.

Wedged between a burgers spot and shwarmaa shop is Hipo Felafel. Not the name I would expect for a falafel, but this isn’t your normal falafel joint. Bright colors and long lines told me that this place is doing something right. As I’m waiting to order, I see all the homemade sauces and pickles and it is just making me hungrier.

At the counter, purely for research, I order both a falafel and a sabich (no I was not going to eat them both, my husband was in the car, do you know what it is like trying to find parking on Ibn Gvirol in the middle of the day)

Sabich is basically pita stuffed with fried eggplant and hard boiled eggs often served with techina and Amba. For this eggplant lover, it’s to die for. Despite the onions I put in it, my husband loved it too.

Now, I am not going to be so bold as to claim Hipo makes the best falafel in the country but they do live up to The Falafel Standards.

  1. Pita must be fresh:  I can’t stress this one enough; any falafel must be served in fresh pita. Stale pita is a mortal sin never to be done – ever. Thankfully both our pitas were fresh and delicious. Hipo has options for fabulously soft and hearty whole wheat pitas as well.
  2. Falafel must be crunchy: Made to order Hipo’s falafel balls were crunchy and tasty and without any MSG and did I mention – completely organic.
  3. Condiments must be ample: I will have to return to assure that my experience was not a one off, because I love a lot of techina with my falafel and I forgot to remind the person helping me to put extra techina, so I’ll forgive this time, but watch out for the next

All around Hipo seems like a great place to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat in the center of Tel Aviv. Although I do not exclusively eat organic food, I appreciate the option. I do believe that fewer the chemicals the better. As for cost, they are a bit pricey at 16 shekels a pop, but their quality is worth it.

So next time you’re hungry in Tel Aviv check out Hipo  Ibn Gvirol 64

Rosh Chodesh Adar: Eldad Vezehoo

Shims and I have been talking for awhile now about starting a blog about restaurants in Israel. Why? Because we love food and we love going out to eat. Back in the stone ages when we were first dating, We began a tradition of going out every new month to a new restaurant. Although there have been short lags, usually after a kid was just born, or the month of Av , we have faithfully kept this up for over six years and have been better off for it.  We thought of starting it last month but we didn’t want to start off with a negative review. 

This month we went to Eldad Vezehoo, recommended to us by some friends. The restaurant is located in Jerusalem’s Fiengold Square. When walking in, I was surprised by the homey and kitschy decor, and the very open kitchen. Shims says he always like an open kitchen so there is nothing to hide but I was not impressed with the clean but not chic look. However I did realize during our meal that the scent wafting from the kitchen definitely added to the experience. While deciding on what to eat i was almost confused by the clash of decor with upscale menu choices and table settings i did not know what to expect.
On the recommendation of the waitress we started with the Fois Gras grilled in Calveros sauce . We almost always ask the waitress for suggestions because  i feel they would know what is best on their menu. For the main course, I chose the hanger steak and shims went for the veal fillet with portobello mushrooms and port sauce. 
The fois gras was cooked perfectly, lightly seared on the outside while still creamy in the middle. The sauce was quite good although on the sweet side I felt it needed a bit more acidity, since the liver itself has its own natural sweetness. For some reason the liver was served over some kind of coconut cake, akin to almost a macaroon. Needless to say it was pretty disgusting so we refrained from eating it. 
Along with the appetizer came fresh hot rolls and  a trio of salads: beet, carrot, and sweet potatoes. The beets were under-seasoned, the sweet potatoes were decent although typical, but the carrots were  surprising.  They were blanched then dressed with a acidic ginger sauce which was very unexpected and delicious.  Shims was disappointed that no spreads were served with the bread but I enjoyed eating it with the liver and its sauce. 
The main courses came and thank g-d they did not overdo shims steak. My husband likes his meat extremely rare and you cannot believe how many times restaurants overcook a steak which he has ordered as blue, bloody or simply moooo. To my disappointment my steak was cooked exactly how I ordered it “rare”. I like my meat medium rare but have been burned too many times in the past when ordering medium rare and getting medium (more on this in another post). My hanger steak lacked a nice char but was definitely a good piece of meat, which I enjoyed.  However, the sauce that was served on the side was disheartening, it was thin, flavorless, and all around did nothing to add to the steak. Although I enjoyed my meal on the whole, it paled in comparison to the veal fillet that was served to my husband. Shims steak was fabulous and the port sauce, infused with cinnamon only accentuated the meats inherent tenderness and sweetness while not overpowering it.  As an accompaniment to the steaks they served baked fries and a medley of root vegetables. The potatoes were superb and the veggies were quite good, however I was unimpressed that the same exact side dish was served for two very different steaks and sauces.  
Since this was a rosh chodesh meal we indulged in dessert. We ordered the “french lemon cake” and the trio of sorbet. These were good, but nothing to write home about. It is rare to find incredible desserts at a meat restaurant in Jerusalem since most places buy their desserts from a third party rather than make them (ill talk more about this in another post).
The service was good and the waitress steered us right on the menu. All in all we had a good time and enjoyed the food. I would rate this restaurant a C+ and Shims gives them a B,  but he says I judge to harshly (more on this in a future post)