Travel Weekly editor-at-large Nadine Godwin spent a week in
Israel, during which she had ample opportunity to sample the food.
Her report follows:
efore I went to Israel, an
all-knowing friend said that, of course, you don't go to Israel to
eat. I repeated that remark to Scott (Teach) Mayer, an American and
the chef de village at caberthe Eilat Club Med, whose response was,
"Yes, you do."
My expectations were probably along the lines of my friend's --
modest -- although I did know about the fantastic and bounteous
breakfast spreads. Indeed, those layouts -- at every hotel on the
itinerary -- looked for all the world like the best of lunch
buffets, as well.
Clearly, a few hotel guests agreed and acted accordingly: They
either ate so much that they would not need another meal until
night, or they packed up food items to carry away with them for the
In one amusing instance, I walked past the juice bar at the
Holiday Inn Dead Sea and noted a sign on the machine that said,
"Don't fill bottles." When I read the sign, two elderly women
guests were doing just that, looking straight at the sign that they
almost certainly could understand.
Back to the food: I was pleasantly surprised at most evening
meals. Hotels serve kosher menus, whereas restaurants vary. The
kosher status affects food choices on the menu, but it did not make
any difference in meal quality. A good chef is a good chef. As a
red wine fan, I had good dry merlots and cabernets with dinners,
Reservations usually are recommended or deemed essential at
these restaurants, but only one, Lilit in Tel Aviv, was fairly
crowded. The others were sadly under-used. Meal portions are very
generous. While I sampled openers and main courses, a budget-minded
visitor will be well-fed after ordering just one.
And, finally, the menus were a reminder that this was Israel:
Some opened "backwards," with pages turning from left to right, as
is fitting for the right-to-left standard for writing Hebrew.
The following is a short rundown of dining establishments
selected for me by my hosts, with local phone and international fax
numbers. Sample prices do not include service.
42 Mazea St.
Tel Aviv 65214
phone (03) 629-8772
fax (011) 972-3 629-1561
Lilit is a moderate-sized eatery wrapped with glass on parts of
three sides, decorated in a "modern/cozy" style. The food is
creatively prepared and presented, and the facility's goal is
unique: It provides a vocational training program for adolescents
with learning challenges.
My meal was a salad of asparagus and cheese, followed by the
fish and vegetables. The dishes cost about $30, and a basket of
bread, butter and olives was $3. Desserts are about $6; we
concluded with a frozen red-orange mousse. No meat is served. There
are fixed-price lunches at $15 and $20.
12 Eilat St.
Jaffa-Tel Aviv 68119
phone (03) 681-6565
fax (011) 972-3 683-2825
Pilgrims came from Maine to Palestine in 1866, and they brought
with them the two-story wooden house that is now the Keren
Restaurant. The cuisine is described as French-European. I call it
gourmet, and it is priced accordingly.
The restaurant offered tasty pre-meal teasers, among them figs
stuffed with cheese. My appetizer was a tomato tart, a caprese
salad laid out on a puff pastry, and it was delicious.
Main courses ranged from fish to beef to lamb. My fish came with
smoked eggplant, which I will skip next time. The chocolate
concoction for dessert was luscious.
Appetizers were $19 to $21; main courses, $35 to $38, and
desserts, about $11. There are fixed-price lunches at about $31 to
Au Bistrot Chez Michel
Eilot Street, Eilat
phone (08) 637-4333
fax (011) 972-8 637-4333
This French eatery is a family business with 12 white-clothed
tables, which seat from five to eight people each. The main courses
emphasize beef and seafood. We shared openers of shrimp, calamari
and Coquilles St. Jacques, all rich, abundant and delicious.
I ordered the ostrich filet; it won't be a favorite but was
delivered with a tasty sauce and vegetables. We concluded with
sorbets and a frozen pistachio dessert.
Appetizers range from about $8 to $16, and most main courses are
about $19 or $20. The restaurant promotes $15 and $17 tourist
Under the Windmill, Yemin Moshe
phone (02) 623-2928, 623-2925
fax (011) 972-2 624-4696
Described as Italian dairy, this bright, spacious restaurant
sits near Montefiore's Windmill, named -- as is the restaurant --
for the Anglo-Jewish man who built the mill in the mid-19th
I chose the house salad followed by the very creamy cannelloni
Parmesan. Most dishes on this meatless menu are priced from $7 to
$12; fish dishes are about $16 and desserts, nearly $5.
54 Haneviim St.
phone (02) 624-7432/3
fax (011) 972-2 624-7263
This small kosher restaurant, set in the late 19th century home
of a wealthy owner, was my favorite, both for its cozy ambience and
creativity with the food.
Diners can sit in the bar area in the enclosed entry area or in
one of two rooms beyond that. The proprietors plan to open a small
hotel on the second and third floors.
We were first treated to a gazpacho and eggplant paste. My
appetizer was a quail and eggplant combination followed by red
snapper with a medley of vegetables. Complementing the snapper were
"fresh herbs mousse" and "baked garlic and shallots paste."
Openers are priced at about $8 to $15, and main courses at $18
to $30. Mine were $11 and $28, respectively.