Sunday, October 18, 2009

Georgia and Yemen in a Tel Aviv Weekend

I ate pretty well this weekend I must admit. Friday, for lunch, I went with my friend Jodie to a hole in the wall Yemenite restaurant near Shuk HaCarmel. Jodie calls the place Irit, because 1) there is no name or signs to the place to give it a proper name and 2) Irit is the warm, friendly owner who runs the place and makes the great food. Irit serves traditional Yemenite dishes such as Lahooch, Jahnoun, Malawach, as well as a great Shakshouka, a variety of soups, amongst others. The hot sauce, hummus, tahina, is all homemade and everything tastes delicious.

My favorite dish is the Lahooch, which is a doughy pancake that Irit folds in half over an egg that appears omelette-ey in its texture and consistency. She then lightly fries it until the outside of the Lahooch is slightly crispy. The Lahooch comes out moist, airy and when topped with her homemade tahina, spicy sauce, and grated tomato puree is really, really tasty. All of her dishes are accompanied by a nice Israeli salad. Irit also treats everyone to spicy Yemenite coffee to finish their meal.

(Lahooch)

Irit's is the kind of place where you always end up speaking with the other patrons (the entire place seats no more than 10-12 people) about how good the food is. Irit, never more than a few feet away engages everybody in conversation, and I feel that for taste and value, Irit's is one of the best places to eat in all of Israel.

Saturday evening I joined some friends for a farewell party at the classic Georgian establishment Nanushka. Nanushka is located on Lilenblum street in the heart of one of Tel Aviv's best restaurant and bar neighborhoods that centers around Rothschild, Lilenblum, Ahad Ha'am and the connecting streets. Georgian food is not well known worldwide, but it is a varied and flavorful cuisine. With a variety of different climates, all sorts of fruits and vegetables grow in Georgia, and the you'll find pomegranates, lamb, stews, dumplings, great beers, a variety of spices throughout traditional Georgian food. At Nanushka up-scale Georgian cuisine is served with dishes like: chicken marinated in tamarind and pomegranate sauces, dumplings, marinated lamb shank, stuffed vegetables, caviar, a variety of eggplant dishes, and much more.

I ordered Chaliya, which is chicken cooked with carmelized onions, tamarind and pomegranate syrups. It was pretty good, but slightly overcooked and a just a little too dry. The spicy, marinated lamb shank that a few of my friends ordered was amazing and the meat was as tender as could be. The starters plate full of different eggplant, beet, stuffed grape leaves was excellent. I could have eaten a variety of salads all night and have left very happy.

Nanushka serves excellent food, and while not cheap, their prices are reasonable. If I have to choose between Irit and Nanushka, though, Irit wins hands down. Irit serves excellent food, has a very unique warm, inviting atmosphere, and is the best value for money in the city. All in all, it was a great weekend for food, and ultimately, I have nothing but praise for the places I ate at.

Next weekend, Alon and I are heading to the Negev to check out some vineyards, goat cheese farms, and restaurants. I'll have a full report on the places we visited in a weeks time.

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2 comments:

  1. All sounds delcious...where exactly can I find irit's?

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  2. I'd like to check out Irit as well. What's the address? Although vegetarian, I adore Georgian food and was glad to finally find a partner for lunch at Nanuchka last month. It was delicious indeed.

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