Sunday, July 31, 2011

Revolution Tel Aviv Style – Missing The Old Gootcha

The Diner by Gootcha – Ibn Gvirol 14

Civil revolution fever is gripping Israel. Where we once thought we were immune to the Arab Spring and protests in Tahrir Square, Israelis are taking to the streets in there thousands. But this protest is not about security or politics rather social and economic realities – the perceived destruction of the middle classes.  

From the very first day I arrived in Israel I was shocked by the price of goods and living expenses in this country. Everything is so expensive and average salaries are very low. Yes we are far better off than third world countries and some European ones, like Greece, but one has to understand that healthy job figures alone is not enough. What is the point of earning a salary that doesn’t pay off monthly expenses and you find yourself constantly two steps back in debt?

The irony here is that the government preaches that we have never had it so good and that pure capitalism is working in Israel. The truth is that capitalism and privatisation in Israel is ugly as it leads to a small handful of people controlling business and government, making enormous profits on behalf of the vast majority of the population - This is only exasperated in a small country. However, the behaviour is also a reflection of all of Israeli society a historical merchant and highly intelligent people which favours family owned businesses and who like many suffer from greed. In general these tycoons are looked up to and It is precisely for this reason that Israel cannot practice pure free market politics but needs a generous measure of independent checks and balances.  


What about protest?

At first it seemed like a group of bored students, looking for a Woodstock style summer experience, camped out on Roschild Boulevard. But this was only the catalyst to something felt and experienced by many in the country. The protests themselves have no single agenda as it is the system that is at fault. Sometimes what works for the US (well even there it is a disaster - debt anyone) won’t work in Israel.

I must point out that it is very humbling and one feels great pride in a country where 150,000 people protest with no looting, fighting or sense of danger. As a person who has seen mass protest in the UK, France and the US, I cannot believe how peaceful it is! Amazingly a lesson in protest pacifism from a country most outsiders associate violence with.

What will the future bring? Well I am an old cynic so I don’t expect much as I find it hard that anyone will be able to change a whole system. But then again I didn’t expect anyone to protest at all, let alone 150,000!

The Diner by Goocha

I will now get of my soap box and get back to business. Goocha restaurant has always been a favourite of mine for casual seafood dishes. The restaurant had two locations; one on Ibn Gvirol and one on Dizengoff. I was sad to see that several months ago the Ibn Gvirol branch had closed and was being replaced by ‘The Diner by Goocha’. It seems odd to me to change something that is liked by many, though I promised to give it a chance.

The new restaurant has transformed but still maintains the very Israeli style of large room with bar and open kitchen. At first I thought I had walked into ‘The Brothers’ restaurant. The restaurant is trying to look like a diner with brown cushioning and black tables – though to me it looked like a brasserie.

The evening we arrived it was not full and we got a table for two. Initially the table next to us was dirty from the previous occupants and the restaurant felt warm but with every few minutes an occasional drop of water from the air conditioning units – this forced us into a little table moving dance. However, all of these things I forgive as it is a new restaurant and is only ironing out its teething problems.

The menu is varied with many diner style favourites, if limited as it was divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner, where an average diner is an all-day menu. We ordered a burger and a roast beef sandwich accompanied by French fries and home fries.

As always I was worried with the burger as the brunette had ordered it, but with the first bite she seemed fine and said it wasn’t bad – high praise. I tasted it and got some gristle in my bite so wasn’t blown away by it. My roast beef sandwich was warm and tasted ok like a sandwich I would get at Olive (Reuben has a much better sandwich but I will not forgive them for offering pickles from jars). On a side note, there are many cravings I have in Israel for food which is hard to come by and sliced rare roast beef is one of them. Why does this country have to cook it to death?  

Some words about the fries – the brunettes French fries were fine but my home fries were unusual as it is the first time I have had American style home fries in Israel which are similar to the breakfast variety in the states. Basically potatoes cut into cubes and coated with a sweet stick sauce.  To date the home fires I have had in Israel have been anything from chunkier chips to spicy ones. Unfortunately it didn’t go well with the sandwich – it would have gone better with bacon and eggs. The one thing I did enjoy was the coleslaw that accompanied the burger.

Service was good throughout, but I generally like the casual service standards one finds in Israel as it is a reflection of the warm hospitality one receives in the country.

Overall we only ordered a couple of dishes and they were of the average variety in a restaurant that is still finding its feet. Though I think it is a shame that they closed down a much better concept to open only an average one. Finally as the brunette likes to say ‘we won’t be coming back’ but maybe it is still worth giving them another chance in a couple months’ time.

3 stars out of 5



  1. Ruebens imports the pickels to Israel... that deserves forgiveness.

  2. Im so disgusted by the beef here in the "holy land" that it takes alot of convincing by friends to get me try something/anything new.

    My culinary adventures here in Israel have been a resounding disappointment.

    I have been disappointed so many times that i have a saying about Israeli dining and for that matter...the whole Israeli experience.

    "I can always count on incompetence"

    Why ? In my opinion...

    1. Beef is inedible.
    2. Not one good mexican place.
    3. How about a deli ? Pastrami sandwich ? none that i have found.
    4. Morning Bagels..... and if another dumb israeli tells me that a roll shaped like a bagel, is a bagel....i am going to punch them.

    and worst of all.....
    Not one fkn good breakfast joint. A salad, shitty egg and nine different Makolet cheeses is not a breakfast.

    I have to admit....if someone can point me to a diner for breakfast (eggs, proper home fries, bacon, toast and good coffee).... i will be forever in their debt. In fact...I'll buy.

    thanks for letting me rant.


  3. R-tactical

    Is there anything good about Israel in your eyes? Maybe you should live in Brooklyn then??

  4. I also don't get why they would change something that worked as well as the original Goocha there. The one on Dizengoff is always full, and doesn't take reservations, and I don't like the Diner either, so I never go to Goocha anymore, which is a shame, since it actually used to be one of my favorite restaurants!