Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Recommended Bites in Tel Aviv – HaPizza and HaKosem (The Magician)

(Plus a bonus eatery)

HaPizza – Bograshov Street
HaKosem (The Magician) – Shlomo Hamalech Street
Garlic Pizza – Nordau Street, Herzliya B 

Visitors staying more than a few days in any city need to know of reliable places to have a quick bite as an alternative to restaurant dining. This is particularly true in Tel Aviv, which is known as the city that never sleeps, with its multiple attractions and non-stop entertainment options. Sometimes all that is required is a tasty quick bite.

Luckily, pizza and falafel are some of Israel’s favourite comfort foods and thankfully Tel Aviv has ample places that offer this necessity. However, like any city, the majority are average with only a few worthy of a visit. I believe my two recommendations are worthy of such a visit.

As mentioned there are many pizza and falafel places but instead of listing multiple options I would like to concentrate on two (plus the bonus) – The suitably named HaPizza (The Pizza) and HaKosem (The Magician) Falafel.

HaPizza – 51a Bograshov Street

Pizza is a bit like hummus as many people have their own favourite and style. My personal taste in pizza is thin crust and simple with very few toppings - the Neapolitan style.

HaPizza is located on the corner of Bograshov and Pinsker and is a pleasant and modern looking establishment with tables both inside and out. Inside the tables are in the front and alongside the right with the pizza brick oven and open kitchen station taking over the rest of the restaurant space.

I always order the same pizza when I visit here and that is the house version which is basically a margarita pizza but with added garlic, mushrooms and parmesan. The place also serves pastas and salads as well as several pizzas without tomato sauce, but I like to go traditional in a Pizzeria.

So how does one do a review about pizza as usually it is just three key ingredients (crust, cheese and tomato sauce)? At HaPizza all three taste very good, with the additional garlic and parmesan enhancing the flavour experience. The cheese tastes like a good quality mozzarella, the tomato sauce is gentle and complimentary and the crust is thin (if a little wet in the middle from all the juices).  Basically it boils down to the quality of the ingredients and here the quality is very good.

I also like the atmosphere of the restaurant, one which is not large but always busy and I have yet to feel rushed by the waiters to complete my meal.

A consistently good experience I hope you will enjoy.

4 stars out of 5 

HaKosem – Shlomo HaMelch Street

Falafel, even more than pizza, is often hotly debated among Israelis pledging loyalty to one place over another. I am no expert but have tried falafel in several locations only to return to one place in particular, as to me it tastes great.

Near the corner of King George and Shlomo HaMelch is the Kosem (magician) a real master of falafel. Every time I visit, I spot one dedicated member of staff who is constantly making fresh falafel. The place is both a take away and has several tables depending on preference. There is usually a line but the nice thing is they offer you a complimentary falafel ball while you wait.

The falafel is always hot and fresh with a crunchy exterior and moist and flavourful centre and is stuffed into a pitta with the usual assortment of salads, spicy sauce, hummus, tehina and even a fried aubergine/eggplant. I suspect every place uses a combination of different spices to liven up the flavour of the falafel and here is no exception. Compared to other places the falafel tastes less oily and the flavours to my palate are gentler yet still bold.

The restaurant also serves Shawarma that tastes better than many comparable places and Shakshuka (which I haven’t tried).

I always recommend it when anyone asks where they can find good falafel in Tel Aviv.

4 stars out of 5

Bonus eatery
Garlic Pizza – Nordau Street 1, Herzliya B

The place was recommended by friend and can be found in Herzaliya B – actually it can be easily overlooked as the surroundings look a little unloved. Garlic Pizza is a neighbourhood joint created by two brothers in what used to be a former kiosk. There are two tables inside the place and a few littered outside.

It is not ‘the’ tastiest pizza in the world but there is something about this place that exudes Israeli old world charm in its simplicity (or maybe I am just a sucker for honest neighbourhood joints). This is even more striking when considering that just across the highway is the centre of Israeli high tech and location of many high end restaurants.

The pizzas themselves are good and have a nostalgic taste about them. Nostalgia is a double edge sword, usually best left alone, as memories tend to be made up of unrepeatable positive experiences and are very personal. Luckily, the nostalgic pizza does not disappoint, is good in its simplicity (nothing fancy here) and are freshly hand made. The place itself is low key but makes a nice change from the Tel Aviv hustle and bustle. In addition to pizza they also serve tasty simple salads and calzone (not as good as the pizza)

Take note it is both vegetarian and kosher so not open Friday night – Saturday day.

It is not worth a special trip from Tel Aviv but if you are in the area you can’t go wrong.

3.5 stars out of 5

Note: I have been told that this place is so obscure that contact details cannot be found as such I add their website for interested parties

The Disgruntled Diner

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