Tel Aviv restaurants are many and varied, and tastes are of course subjective. But you'll be hard pressed to have a bad meal at any of the places on this list. And what's going to be bigger: the portions or the flavors? That's a race to the (delicious) finish, but the best way to find out is by reserving a table in advance, as noted below. On weekends especially, tables at these restaurants fill up fast.
The owners of the more humdrum Cafe Noir next door now bring great neo-Balkan dining to Tel Aviv in the form of -- tahdah! -- Montenegro. Now, in case you're wondering what on earth Montenegro-style cooking is just recall how close to Greece that little country is. So it's no surprise to find meze (small plates) on the menu, including the likes of tzatziki, taramasalata and cauliflower with capers and anchovy oil. The koshari rice, a rice pilaf side dish with green lentils, fried noodles and fried onions, is a delectable accompaniment to either fresh whole fish or grilled skewers (the chicken masala skewer is a standout). Overall this is simple, pleasantly spiced fare in a trendy setting full of shiny pop colors, good cheer and ouzo-based cocktails aplenty.
For a quick introduction to New Israeli cooking, sidle up to the busy bar here because chances are good all the tables are going to be booked. You'll find chic diners ogling the heaping plates of Chef Eyal Shani's beautiful organic offerings -- wild-caught fish, locally-sourced meat and above all, local vegetables.
From the curried cauliflower to calamari pasta with tomatoes and parsley by way of butter-sauteed red cabbage, Shani elevates the simple to simply scrumptious with such aplomb, you’ll be craving a second visit before your meal is through.
40 Lilienblum St., 03-5104435
Maybe you didn't come to Tel Aviv looking for fabulous French food, but you're going to find it at this hip 24-hour Parisian-styled eatery located across from Rabin Square on busy Ibn Gabirol Street. Roast chicken with potatoes dauphinois, entrecote and French fries, sole meuniere and more make this noisy place hard to resist.
At any given time of day Brasserie is like a Tel Aviv who's who; you'll leave not learning a thing about Mediterranean cuisine but having enjoyed a great meal seasoned with an umistakably cosmopolitan ambience.
70 Ibn Gabirol, Tel. 03-6967111
Take a series of renovated houses in the trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood, douse the brick walls in coats of white paint, the better to set off the wood-beamed roofs, devise a Mediterranaean menu that invites lingering and you've got Dallal. Chef Golan Garfunkel's run to the heartier edge of the Levantine palate, with plenty of meat and fish dishes prepared with refinement.
Salads and pastas are terrific, too. The dinner menu repeats at lunch, which is a bit of a disappointment, and prices are on the high side. Great atmosphere, however.
10 Shabazi St., 972-3-5109292
Warning: the bread basket at Raphael is crazy good. Truly fabulous focaccia that was so fabulous my mother was looking for an elegant way to squirrel some away in her purse (sorry Mom!). Once you get past that, it's onward and upward to compelling, but not too far-out New Israeli cuisine as imagined by power chef Raffi Cohen.
That means a Mediterranean fusion resulting in things like gazpacho with white nectarines, gnocchi with roast parmesan, great fish dishes and desserts with a light, deft touch. The restaurant boasts a sea view and shares space with the very dated Dan Hotel, but is not a part of it.
87 Hayarkon, 972-3-522-6464
Oh, Shila! Sharon (a guy) Cohen's kitchen and bar is always hopping, and seems to be the unofficial, upscale canteen of the Tel Aviv's Old North district. Yes, it's a little too expensive, and the wait for those with no reservations is a little too long, but Tel Avivis don't keep a restaurant crowded just to be kind. Cohen's edibles rock: keep your order focused on fish and you'll see why from the first bite.
182 Ben Yehuda St., tel. 011-972-3-5221224
Add a bit of Mediterranean zest to a midtown Manhattan steakhouse and you’ve got Social Club. Which means that in addition to a solid grilled pork chop (with sage and tomato salsa) or rib eye steak (with green beans and potato puree) you’ll also find items on the menu like mint shrimp kebabs and gnocchi with mushrooms and parmesan cheese.
There's also a robust bar menu, and scene to go with it. (Note: despite the address on Rothschild, the restaurant is actually just off the boulevard: you must walk past the restaurant Max Brenner to find it).
45 Rothschild Blvd., 972-3-560-1114
The Dining Hall
This upbeat, modern eatery is nestled within the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. Chef Omer Miller's menu is replete with fantastic starters, such as labne cheese dumplings with hyssop oil and nigella seeds; shrimps with Jerusalem artichoke cream and tomato butter; and fried cauliflower with lemon tahina, oregano and purple onion. Share 'em.
Main dishes include the likes of blackened chicken confit with mashed potatoes and spring onion, and spicy Moroccan-style fish stew. There are 20 Israeli wines - why not try them all? That's what repeat visits are for and with food this good you'll want to come back for more.
23 Shaul Hamelech St., 972-3-696-6112
Yavne Montefiore Corner Bistro
Nothing beats the fresh tomato salad at Yavne Montefiore Corner Bistro, the newest restaurant from Tel Aviv's young power chef Jonathan Roshveld. Located in the heart of the White City Bauhaus District, the bi-level restaurant offers luxuriously flavorful cuisine. If it's the weekend, don't even think of showing up without a reservation. Expect entrees in the $25-$40 range.
And if you see strawberries and basil in cream on the dessert tray, grab it before someone else does.
31 Montefiore St., Tel. 011-972-3-5666189