As Jerusalem has such a wonderful selection of kosher restaurants to choose from, I rarely eat in places there that are not kosher. However when I venture out of the holy city, it is nice to see what culinary delights Tel Aviv and the Mercaz have to offer, especially the locally caught fresh fish.
Popular with Israelis from the whole Mercaz area, Sebastian is a French style brasserie, authentically decorated and full of atmosphere. Located in the industrial area of Herzliya Pituach, this is no doubt a popular location for business meetings but we enjoyed a relaxed meal on a Saturday night and the place was full of locals. The menu is varied with something for everyone. I ordered the Filleted Sea Bream a la Plancha with lemon butter sauce, green beans and baked potatoes (97₪)it was cooked and presented well. For me it was a treat to have good quality fish cooked in real butter because I generally eat fish in Jerusalem’s kosher meat restaurants so the sauce is parev.
I started with Asparagus with Parmesan (47 NIS), one of my favorite dishes and a real treat to find it here. My friends had the Antipasti of Seasonal Vegetables in Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar (42₪) which was fresh and tasty and the Caesar Salad with Anchovies and Parmesan (42₪) which was nice but drenched in dressing! For main course I had the Sea Bass with Endive in Balsamic Sauce (92₪), the combination of flavors was wonderful. I chose mashed potato as a side dish and it was one of the best I have ever had, creamy in texture with a nutty flavor, it was the perfect complement to the fish and I had to stop myself from eating too much as the side dish portion was very generous and I dread to think how much butter they used in it.
One friend had Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Butter and Oregano (62₪), not a particularly adventurous choice but he was not disappointed. The pasta was home-made and the sauce bore no resemblance to a typical tomato sauce. My other friend chose from the specials menu and had Drum Fish served on a bed of home-made gnocchi with zucchini with a lemon butter sauce (96₪). The gnocchi melted in the mouth and the fish was meaty yet tender with a perfect amount of buttery sauce.We skipped dessert and we were brought one on the house. They gave us Vanilla Ice Cream with Prunes in Cognac (29₪) which was very nice of them but I would have been much happier trying a more Italian dessert like Canoli, Tiramisu or Crème Brulée which I saw a party next to us getting and they all looked incredible. I have since learnt from someone that they typically will give you a starter or dessert one the house if you do not order one yourself. This is probably one of the best restaurants I have been to in Tel Aviv and I would highly recommend it. The same chain also own Brasserie on Ibn Gvirol in Tel Aviv, which is a French restaurant I have heard wonderful things about and I am excited to try.
Set on top of a cliff overlooking the beach in Herzliya Pituach, Rocca is a perfect place to watch the sun go down on the Mediterranean Sea. We sat at a table right at the front of the restaurant overlooking the sea and despite the warm August evening, there was an amazing breeze and by the end of the meal I was a little bit cold. The restaurant was busy with groups of friends, family as well as couples enjoying the romantic view. We started with a small roll of Salmon Maki (39₪) to share, just to try their sushi – it was very fresh but no better than many other sushi places I have been to. For main course I had a Fillet of Sea Bass with roasted new potatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic and olives (118₪) and my date had a Fillet of Salmon with chickpeas and mushrooms (118₪). Both were very tasty but while my fish was slightly overcooked, his salmon was slightly under cooked. We resisted sampling the dessert menu but the Tarte Tatin, Crème Brulée and Hot Chocolate Soufflé all sounded delicious. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and the service was attentive but not overbearing, having eaten great fish in a few other places nearby, this could not compare. Bottom line, the setting is stunning and I would go back for drinks and maybe something small to eat, but I would not rush back for a full meal.
Beni Hadayag – considered by many as Israel’s top fish restaurant, I would agree that the fish is always fresh and there is a great selection. With branches in the Namal Tel Aviv and Herzliya Marina, both have great views and ambiance although the Tel Aviv branch is much busier so make sure to make a reservation. Although there are other starters on the menu, the mezze of salads is included for all those who order a main course (and 35₪per person if you don’t), they are delicious and come with a mouth watering fresh bread. The fish menu offers filleted fish which you can choose to have grilled, deep fried (not recommended for health or flavor) or oven baked in an olive oil, garlic and lemon sauce. There is also a choice of whole fish priced by weight which can all be deep fried, oven baked with onion rings, oven baked in an olive oil, garlic and lemon sauce or baked in salt. All are served with baked potatoes. On my most recent visit to the Tel Aviv branch, I shared a Whole Lavrak (לברק) Baked in salt which is European Sea Bass and smaller than regular Sea Bass and my other friend chose to have Grilled Fillet of Sea Bream (Denise) (118₪). We all enjoyed the amazing selection of salads to start and our fish was cooked perfectly and was succulent and tasty. I have taken a few visitors to Beni Hadayag and we have always had a great meal.
Please note: none of the restaurants mentioned here are kosher.