Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Cost of Israel – Another Burger Adventure at Meat Bar

Meat Bar (Hamburger) – Sderot Chen 52

One thing I hear a lot from visitors and expats is how expensive this country is, especially when compared to Europe and the US.

I have to admit that even I cannot ignore the big difference in price on almost everything when comparing. But is this really the case?

Unfortunately it is!

I do not know what people, who are neither Jewish, nor connected to the country think of Israel’s financial situation, but I managed to catch one episode of a program called ‘The Promise’ broadcast in the UK. In that mini-series they showed an English girl visiting her friend in Israel. They flew business class and resided at her friend’s parents’ house in Caesarea (over-looking the sea), before going all political (as they usually do). I was wondering if people view Israel and Israeli’s as very wealthy – maybe it is a Middle Eastern oil thing?

Never the less here are some sad home truths. The average Israeli work week is 43 hours (more than in Europe), earns a gross monthly salary of 8,500nis (40% less than in the UK), receives 10 working days of leave (20+ in the UK), car prices are almost double than the equivalent in Europe or the US. Banking, electronics, utilities, supermarkets and mobile phones are also higher.  In fact one of the only things less expensive in Israel is fruit and vegetables. Combine the low salary and higher prices and you get an expensive picture.

In addition, the latest poverty report published by the OECD, Israel is joint last with Mexico having the highest level of children under the poverty line among the 35 member nations. Of course there are multiple reasons for these realities from exchange rates to monopolies to largely non-working minority groups.

Israel also has a very high rich to poor gap I suspect one of the many reasons is through the importance of family and keeping the money within. Many companies in Israel are family affairs with management handed down through the generations, even if the next generation is not the most qualified. While another reason is the existence of large and poor groups of religious Jews with multiple children who dedicate their lives to studying religious texts and not working.

Yes the weather is nice and it is a great place to visit but let’s not be fooled by what surrounds us and that is plenty of social and economic problems including unrelenting corruption and infuriating bureaucracy – and I am not even including the obvious political issues.

This is also an irony for the average Israeli who hates being considered the ‘friar’ or sucker. We in Israel are always arguing and trying to find the best deal and doing our best not to be tricked. The sad truth is that the joke is on us and compared to other countries we are possibly the biggest ‘friars’. This may have been acceptable in the past when the country was being built through the collective sacrifice. But today instead of protesting people seem prepared to continue and pay for ridiculous monopolistic gas prices, telephone contracts, bank charges and water bills. Even in the UK there were petrol protests which cost far less than in Israel.

Overall this piece is just a reality check that Israel, like many young democracies, still has a lot to answer for and improve and is not the land of countless millionaires (though of course I wouldn't mind being one).

Meat Bar (Hamburger)

Economics aside, on my on-going quest for good hamburgers in the land of average beef (at best), I decided to take a chance and try Meat Bar. It is no secret that I do not like the flavour of beef in Israel. At first I blamed it on the quality of meat but maybe it is more to do with the taste that I am used to from the States and the UK?

Regardless, the brunette and I visited Meat Bar (near Rabin Square) for another try as we were both craving the burger. The craving had come early in the evening around seven but even so, the restaurant was busy and there was only a place on the bar. Not a problem for us and possibly best for a quick burger pick-me-up.

Meat Bar is primarily a steak restaurant with burgers as a side note. I have not tasted the steak so cannot comment on whether they are good. Though from what I had seen on other diners plate they looked large and well seared.

We were the only ones seated at the bar and was served by the ‘ice’ woman who, while not rude, was not particularly warm and went through the motions as if to say please don’t bother me more than placing your order. The serving difference between Florentin and Central Tel Aviv could not be clearer.

One question that the brunette and I have a problem answering in Israel is how we like our burger cooked. This was never a problem abroad as we always asked for medium and received a burger that was pink in the middle. In Israel when you ask for medium you get anything from medium-rare to almost raw, which is not ideal when the beef is of average quality. So on this occasion we asked for a burger that was pink in the middle but not raw.

With little anticipation as a result of not so distant failed experiences, we received both burgers. One great quality of the brunette is that she will instantaneously tell you if she likes something, through a spontaneous facial expression. So the first bite is always the most interesting and on this occasion it was neither joy nor disgust (this is a good thing) and she went on to say that it is ok. Personally I thought the burger was fine but no more, the paddy had been grilled and had an ok sear while the meat tasted of good quality. When compared to the other burgers tasted on the blog I would say that it is probably the best (unfortunately that is not saying much).

I did though like the fries (the brunette did not as she like them thicker) which were thin and crispy and which were included in the price of the burger (60 something shekels).

Overall, not an unpleasant experience but still not burger heaven!

3 stars out of 5

The Disgruntled Diner

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