Grab Your Chopsticks — Tel Aviv's Asian Moment
When you’re visiting Israel and can’t stand to eat another freshly baked pita or crispy falafel (we know, life’s hard), check out Tel Aviv’s latest restaurant craze — the flavors of Southeast (and South) Asia. The city, which until recently didn’t have many Asian options now boasts Vietnamese, Singaporean, Korean and Thai restaurants.
From street-vendor style Vietnamese sandwiches to freshly cut papaya salads, places that do Asian-fusion right and soups that are so good you pick up the bowl to slurp the last drop, find out where to fill up on Asian inspired cuisine.
Note: These restaurants are not kosher, though several offer kosher and vegan options.
The “Thai House” prides itself on serving authentic cuisine from both the Bangkok region and the southern islands and it doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find a lot more here than just traditional Pad Thai and coconut-milk based curries. Enormous portions of various Thai soups with rich, flu-fighting broths are available in addition to deep fried pork, steamed fish with vegetables, sautéed seafood in oyster sauce and plenty of vegetarian options. Thai veggies such as plumb eggplants, Pahak Bong (or morning glory) and Sweet Thai Basil are even grown exclusively by the owners for the restaurant’s use.
The bamboo-lined interior and simple wooden tables instantly take you back to one of the many dining options on Bangkok’s Khao San Road. And the perfectly refreshing flavors combined with an overwhelming bounty of bright and hearty dishes, making this your culinary ‘house’ away from home in Tel Aviv.
Don’t miss: Som Tam (Papaya Salad, 32 NIS), Yam Gai (Broiled Chicken Salad, 32 NIS), Pahak Bong (Thai greens with choice of shrimp or pork, 64/69 NIS)
Address: Bograshov 8 on the corner of Ben Yehudah street, Tel Aviv
Reminiscent of the street-vendor experience in Vietnam or the night markets so popular in Southeast Asia, this 6-month old Asian dig serves delectable bites.
At Hanoi (the restaurant, not the capital), you’ll drink TsingTao beer out of a can and enjoy a fusion of Vietnamese, Malaysian and Cantonese dishes. From chicken liver and Banh Mi sandwiches, to crispy pork dishes and delicious and piping hot pho, this eclectic and surprisingly inexpensive restaurant is nothing short of a gem. Vegetarian options include plenty of tofu dishes, vegan pho, vegetable Banh Mi sandwiches and Roti Matamba (a vegetable-filled pastry and popular street snack in Penang, Malaysia).
Fans of Hanoi come for the food not the decor — prepare to be served on wooden and plastic crates and take a seat in some brightly colored chairs.
Don’t miss: Crispy pork belly with Bok Choy in black sauce (48 NIS), Beef Rendang (62 NIS), Vegan Pho (46 NIS), Banh Mi (Chicken liver and grilled pork or vegetables in French baguette, 36 NIS), Fried Ice-cream (24 NIS).
Address: 18 Lilenblum street, Tel Aviv
The buzz surround Eng Su’s opening made it seem like Buddakan was opening up on Gordon beach. Until now, Singaporean cuisine, a combination of culinary influences from China, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam, was barely known within the Israeli gastronomic community. But the Yarzin brothers, who already own six other leading restaurants in Tel Aviv are changing that.
When it comes to Eng Su (like Hanoi) go for the food, not the ambiance. Simple tables and chairs give this restaurant a high school cafeteria feel while plastic plates meant to recreate Singaporean street feel are disappointingly hospital-like. Aside from the food itself, the only colors visible are the Asian coffee canisters lining the open kitchen.
But the salty and spicy Singaporean omelet with bits of daikon, Cantonese style duck, Indonesian beef curry, Vietnamese crepes filled with shrimp and pork, Chili Crab and so many more exceptional dishes by Eng Su, the mastermind Singaporean Chef behind the fare served at this joint, compensate for the rather dull atmosphere you’ll find here.
Don’t miss: Chili Crab (38 NIS), Chicken Satay (29 NIS) White Rice topped with Fried Onions (4 NIS), Cantonese Fried Fish (64 NIS), Asam (Sweet and sour fish curry, 52 NIS).
Located: Bugrashov 34, Tel Aviv
The hype surrounding the opening of Taizu in March of this year certainly set the bar high, but with impressive service, great dishes, a comprehensive beverage menu, Tel Aviv’s newest Asian spot did not disappoint.
After exploring tastes, colors, textures and spices during a 3-month-long culinary tour, Chef Yuval Ben Neriah came back to open Taizu, his interpretation of Asian street food with a personal twist. Ben-Neriah’s “AsiaTerranean” concept uses Asian influences, modern cooking techniques and both local and imported ingredients in an attempt to create an entirely new type of kitchen. In order for you to taste all five culinary cultures (India, China, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia) represented by the restaurant, a variety of small plates to be shared by the table is definitely the way to go.
If you’re looking for a night out, Taizu is a crowd-pleasing special-occasion restaurant, but with high value comes a price tag. The restaurant also offers a private chef room for more intimate occasions.
Don’t miss: Shanghai Dumplings (62 NIS), Butter Chicken (68 NIS), Fish Tartar (34 NIS) Bengali Shrimps (74 NIS) - The menu changes seasonally
Address: Menachem Begin 23 in the Levenshtein Tower, Tel Aviv
Craving inexpensive, mind-numbingly good, flavorful noodles? Head to one of Giraffe’s three Tel Aviv locations for your choice of udon, egg, thin or broad rice noodles as well as an abundance of fried rice dishes, sweet and sour chicken and even wings in ginger-plum dressing.
While the menu here mentions Malaysia, Hong-Kong, India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand as influences for the undoubtedly tasty dishes, authenticity remains questionable. Kid-friendly, quick and affordable large portions are easily accomplished here, making Giraffe an ideal destination for families; in short, this tasty eatery hits the spot. Skip the sushi.
Don’t miss: Health Salad (34 NIS), Refreshing Thai Salad (33 NIS), The Spicy Philippine Dish (51), Beef Rice Noodles (54 NIS), The Afghan Meal (54).
Locations: Ibn Gvirol 49, Tel Aviv; Ha’arbaa 21, Tel Aviv; Habarzel 19, Tel Aviv
Sushi restaurants have gained tremendous popularity in Israel, but sushi represents only a tiny portion of Japanese fare, and far too often rolls are huge and distastefully stuffed with mayonnaise and fried panko. FU turns this trend on its head, doing sushi the right way with creative, melt-in-your-mouth rolls using fresh and first-rate ingredients. Every role here is prepared to perfection be it a simple Maki combination, rice paper rolls, Nigiri, fresh-tasting sashimi or one of the unique FU special roles. The food here is a reminder of why the sushi-craze started in the first place.
FU is the ultimate place to be whether you are out on a date, with friends or have a craving for late-night sushi. Following high demand for its delectable rolls and the energetic atmosphere, the restaurant doubled its original size earlier this year.
Don’t miss: Agadashi Tofu (32 NIS), Mexican Tuna (49 NIS), Gyoza Shrimps (30 NIS), Tuna Arugula role (42 NIS), Salmon Volcano (33 NIS), Green Dragon (32 NIS).
Address: Yermeyahu 32, Tel Aviv
It’s difficult to ignore the contemporary design, purple neon lights, black marble bar and sparkling open kitchen, but the main attraction at Zepra can be found on your plate. The menu prepared by this Asian Fusion kitchen is well-executed, creative and expensive. Consider yourself warned; a remarkable gastronomic adventure lies ahead!
Asian-style cuisine served at Zepra is a combination of different kitchens, cultures and talents, a place where health and freshness meet spices, smells and tastes from the Far East, defining Asian fusion in the very best way possible. Chef Avi Conforti respects ancient Asian traditions but also mixes them up adding his own personal and creative touch, using both humor and curiosity. The menu here is divided up by food preparation style (raw, tempura, grilled) as opposed to appetizers and entrees.
Don’t miss: Big Eye Tuna Pizza (65 NIS), Zepra Dumpling (39 NIS), Popcorn Black Tiger Shrimps (45 NIS), Black Cod (105 NIS), Unan (Sirloin, 112 NIS)
Address: Yigal Alon 96, Tel Aviv