Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fighting over Cottage Cheese Prices – Average Dining at the ‘Brothers’

The Brothers (Ha-Achim) – Ibn Gvirol 12

Cottage cheese has been headlining the news in Israel. Whereas revolutions are taking place in neighbouring countries it is the price of cottage cheese which has become the main topic of discussion here. Following-on from my recent entry on the expense of Israel, people have suddenly woken-up to the fact that they are over-spending and being over charged. This ‘sudden’ discovery has unfortunately tapped into the superficial and non-beneficial friar (sucker) syndrome leading into vocal anger over cottage cheese prices.


It is no secret that Israelis pay far more on a basket of goods than in Europe / US, which coupled with a far lower average salary, corruption, non-importation (and high taxes), small country mentality and monopolies really shows what an obedient, conservative and apathetic society we are. This control quickly becomes apparent to new immigrants or returning Israelis who are often told when starting a new job to expect much lower salaries and longer hours – why? Because that is the way things work in Israel! It is this style of controlled conservatism and indifference mixed with a misplaced nationalistic defence mechanism (attacking any critique from outsiders) which is a surprising, if disappointing discovery to many immigrants / returning citizens. And god forbid you state the obvious or mention the flaws, with a common response being ‘go home if it is so bad here’. It is not bad here for us rather we are pointing out that we are all being screwed! Let us try and find a way to improve things!

I have to say that I find Israeli behaviour on non-political protest distinctly odd as I always imagined there would be no hesitation from a nation that is very opinionated and strong to go out in the street and protest. But whereas social media brings people out in the street in many other countries here is where the protest ends in Israel with a middle finger click on a mouse button. Why are we more different from the Greeks who are currently rioting, the French or even the more reserved British who are seem to be protesting more often when prices rise?

Though even saying that, I am not sure that Israel is any better or worse than other countries, rather just stating my disappointment of how blatantly the government and industry takes advantage, while an apathetic and sometoime defensive population does little or nothing.

What will the war on cottage cheese achieve? Temporary price drops on a minimum of consumer goods?  I fear that the scape goat of cottage cheese diverts from the fact that Israel is overpriced with corrupt and family controlled industry and government, generally taking the piss of an indifferent society because it can and will continue to do so.

The Brothers (Ha-Achim)

With disappointment weighing heavily on our hearts (which ultimately leads to hunger) the brunette and I took the opportunity of trying out the brothers restaurant on Ibn Gvirol. The idea for the restaurant is to take shish kebab (skewered meats) which is commonly found in Eastern and Arab restaurants and serve it in a modern Tel Avivy surrounding.

We were both a little sceptical of the concept as we enjoy the more common Eastern/Arab restaurant that also serves salads followed by a grilled meat course but we said let’s try it!

The initial impression of walking in was good – a large modern loft style restaurant with an open kitchen, brick walls and some retro furniture. We were seated at a table with a fitting brown paper table cloth and given an English and Hebrew menu. While I was going through the Hebrew menu the Brunette commented that the courses were expensive! I didn’t understand as the prices looked fine to me but then I noticed that the two menus were different with prices on the English menus double those in the Hebrew one. We asked the waitress the difference and she mentioned that the English menu is incorrect and charges for two skewers instead of one but we will tell diners it is incorrect (English only speakers beware).

The menu included a selection of salads to start and for mains skewers of beef, lamb chicken and seafood as well as a special that day of Waygu beef. Does anyone else feel that we are suddenly in some sort of imported beef revolution? (Not necessarily a bad thing as they taste better than Israeli beef).

We started our meal with the salad selection for two which included; red and green cabbage, two types of tehina, eggplant paste, grapes & onions and spicy sauces, all accompanied by a tasty bread that look a little bit like a pancake. The salads were ok, no reinvention of the wheel here and as such felt that the better Arab restaurants are tastier.

Quickly following our salads came our main course of entrecote (35nis) and lamb kebab (25nis). Both were cooked medium which in some ways is different than equivalent places which tend to overcook the meat. Regardless my entrecote was a little chewy, if pink in the middle and as such I have come to a wholly unscientific conclusion that beef or lamb (not kebab) should never be served skewered as this method of cooking does not showcase the meat. The lamb kebab was also fine but no better or worse than the many other places that serve this dish.

We skipped dessert and the overall bill came to 127nis including a glass of beer and lemonade. Not expensive but fine.

Actually the whole meal was fine, if boring – I think we will stick to our favourite Eastern / Arab restaurant in the future.

2.5 stars out of 5


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