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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Sauerkraut with loads of sausage and pork at Gilad & Daniel. A rare, rare find in Tel Aviv. Reminded me and my sister (ever so slightly pictured here) of the sauerkraut our dad used to buy us in the weekly market near our home in Paris. Hot, spiced, right out of a barrel and dished into a bag to take home. I don't think it ever lasted long.

Crepe Breakfast

Crepe Breakfast at Gilad & Daniel. Perfect crepe. Almost as good as their Croque Madame. Did I mention that I'll be dining here frequently?

Hot Apple Cider with Rum, a Cinnamon Stick, and Fresh Apples, reading Three Men in a Boat. I often wonder if people think me insane because I laugh out loud and not infrequently while reading at cafes. Good thing that I don't care because laughing out loud while reading is one of the best sensations I know.

Guacamole

5-minute Guacamole with Sesame Cracker (eaten watching China Beach last night). Another attempt at finishing off the weekly organic veg box. Another box just arrived an hour ago. Egad!

Chicken Udon & Caprese Salad at a trendy Ben Yehuda bistro - name alludes me

Breakfast today - melon eaten with spoon looking at the view on my balcony/work space on the dining room table

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The best croque monsieur on this side of the Mediterranean. Best croque madame, if we’re being technical.

I discovered a bistro less than a ten minute walk from my house.  It’s a tragedy it’s taken me this long to find it.  Gilad and Daniel located at 300 Dizengoff (corner of Yehezkiel just north of Nordau) is the closest thing to a real French brasserie I have ever seen in Israel.

Here’s the story of my first meal.

I decided on a long walk this Friday morning.  Tough week.  Sunshiny day.  Why not? I packed 3 books (you always need a selection) and headed north on Dizengoff (I usually head south).  Desperately in need of some breakfast, I knew there were some trendy places north of Nordau.  I didn’t expect what I found.  Jeremiah is a cafe that everyone knows.  It’s always full of hip people.  A place to be seen.  Not a place I’m comfortable with, but as I’d never been, I thought I might try it.  Before I got there, I passed Gilad and Daniel.  It wasn’t as crowded, and the people seated seemed a little more on the interesting side.  A waitress smiled at me as I walked by.  Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw that the far end of the exterior wall was covered in a Renoir print –  famous colorful cafe scene.  Immediate u-turn.

The menu features a breakfast crepe and the croque, of course, with main dishes including an incredible saur kraut and mixed meat dish, coq au vin, boeuf bourgignon, and an incredible looking couscous tagine.  Many “Israeli” dishes on the menu, as well (heck, it is Israel, after all), but these French dishes are perfect.  Down to earth, simple, well done.  No fancy dry brioche (a la Benedicts).

I had such a lovely time eating this croque madame, I cannot emphasize this more.  The cheese was perfectly melted and creamy and rich.  Mingling with the ham and the runny yolk I adore so much, I dreaded the end of the simple sandwich.  So much so that I photographed the very last bite.

It was a lovely day, a perfect meal, and I sat for an hour or more with a good cup of coffee and a hilarious book, Three Men in a Boat.  I highly recommend this bistro.  It’s the finest eatery in my neighborhood, and despite the fact that it’s very much a small neighborhoodsy cafe, the meal I ate was more authentic and satisfying than any I have eaten along the fashionable Rothschild Blvd corridor.  Yes, better.  I’d put money on it.

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Our own personal Proustian Madeleines.  In this case, an Italian sandwich.

If we’re attuned to it, I think we all have these moments daily. A smell we notice while walking down the street, a new food at a cafe, someone’s perfume, laundry, kitchen. And BOOM — you’re instantly transported into a memory.  Sometimes the memory is unclear for me — I can’t pinpoint it, but I can usually assign a time period or location.  Late high school.  Sometime at summer camp.  Ireland.

And sometimes, you know exactly where and when that trigger takes you. That happened to me at lunch yesterday.  I was trying to get some work done at the Loveat on Yehuda HaLevi (after having an awesome haircut at Tomer Reshef, I have to mention — best place in Tel Aviv for curly hair — bar none).  Lunch isn’t cheap at Loveat, but it’s vaguely organic there (perhaps just the coffee), and with the larger sandwiches, you get your choice of side dish — I had a cup of split pea soup — a real treat compared to what you get at most cafes.

Loveat - I really like the atmosphere at this branch

My chicken panini (or gabetta, as they call them here — I’m pretty sure they mean ciabatta; panini would be far more appropriate as that refers to a sandwich often made of a ciabatta; whatever, it’s Israel) was incredible.  When I took the first bite, I was transported back to the 2rd floor coffee shop of the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago.  This cafe functioned on take out — basically, all the restaurants in the neighborhood brought their best takeaways — pad thai, pad seeyu, curry and rice, samosas, and tons and tons of sandwiches.  I was a vegetarian at the time, and I often got the roasted vegetable sandwich from Pizza Capri (it’s still on the menu!).  It was heaven: roasted red peppers, eggplant, perhaps zucchini, perhaps a slice of cheese, and tons and tons of garlic.  I can assert to the fact that it had peppers, eggplant, and garlic — the rest is a little hazy.

Although my Loveat gabetta had chicken, the rest of it was very much like my sandwich of yore.  The roasted red pepper I think was what took me back.  And why is this significant?  I almost lived in that building.  The theatre was on the 3rd floor, and I think I had 80% of my meals from that coffee shop.  I may have eaten more than 200 of those sandwiches over the course of 4 years.  When I had my internship at Steppenwolf Theatre, there was even a Pizza Capri across the street — and I ate it once or twice a week that whole summer.  The flavor and texture of that sandwich represents the blood, sweat, tears, and every ounce of passion I put into my undergraduate education.  It represents the grimy yet super-comfy theatre lounge I hung out at every day, where I ate half my meals, where I caught up and prepped before classes, where I piled onto ancient sofas with friends and collaboratively did the New York Times crossword, where I held weekly production meetings, where I memorized lines, where I read play after play after play, where I played snood and mac-brickout and checked my telnet email account on ancient computers, where I developed and fine-tuned proposals, where I planned my future and dreamed.

Reynolds Club 2nd floor coffee shop - much as I remember it

It’s almost ten years behind me now.  Seems like yesterday, and I can’t believe how far I’ve drifted from what that girl thought she’d be.  And that sandwich.  Do we go back and try to jump start what we used to love or thought we loved?  Is it pointless to try?  Is it too late?  I didn’t know it then, but it was the happiest time of my life.  Sure, I was miserable a lot.  But I was also challenged and busy and growing and trying and achieving and failing and was surrounded by some of the most interesting people I have yet known.  That sandwich yesterday highlighted my relatively isolated and somewhat stagnant state.

It’s time I announced my intentions: I want to go back into academia.  It will be very different this time.  Nostalgia will probably play a distracting and not-too-positive role in this.  But I’m doing it.  It will take time.  Part-time completion courses.  Maybe a second masters degree in order to get where I would like to be — an excellent doctoral program.  Not in theatre.  A social science/philosophy type course.  Life is horrible, complex, beautiful.  I study it anyway.  I want to be with people I can speak with, research with, and who have passion for these abstract and seemingly ridiculous and impractical notions.  Perhaps I’m sounding arrogant and idealistic here.  Probably.

Powerful sandwich, that. Wouldn’t you say?

A fantastic blog article – a picture-laden tour of the University of Chicago — with a particular focus on all its bizarre coffee shops (my fave was not focused on, however — although I am proud to say I frequented ALL of the ones featured).

Imaginative & refreshing cinnamon lemonade at Loveat

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Review: Rak Basar (translation: “Only Meat” – restaurant); 223 (cocktail bar)

Tel Aviv certainly loves its gimmicks – restaurants and bars all over town try some interesting and often odd tricks to get people in door.  Some gimmicks are logical – a breakfast restaurant serves breakfast and not dinner.  A cafe serves coffee and not sirloin.  But, I’m not quite for fad gimmicks.  If it works, it works, great.  My experience at the deaf-blind center’s BlackOut restaurant was a real thrill.  My disappointment at 24-hour breakfast at Benedict’s was monumental.  But will these places (or their genres) stand the test of time?  Or does that even matter?  Here are two accounts of recent gimmicky places I had the pleasure of encountering.

Rak Basar

Gimmick #1: choose your cut and size of meat at a real butcher shop at the back of the restaurant – then have it served on a small tabletop grill – where you can choose to cook the meat further, or simply keep portions of it warm while you slowly work you way through the masses of it all.

At a restaurant called “Only Meat,” it really says something when the parts of the meal I loved most were the all-you-can drink wine jug (after all, you stop caring after the second glass that the wine is uber-cheap Shel Segal) and the appetizers (creative, finely chopped salads – one with cactus!; and an elegant small-portioned grilled beef tongue served atop a salad).

Although I ordered my NY strip steak rare, it came blue.  My dad’s sirloin (ordered medium rare) came in rare-to-blue, and my sister’s ostrich (ordered at the butcher’s recommendation of medium-to-medium rare) came in so blue it was cold in the middle.  And it being ostrich – a bird – I was worried at how safe it would be to actually eat it in that condition.

My first thought was that they honestly thought that the tabletop grill would keep cooking the meat steadily, so they undercooked.  But the grill wasn’t quite hot enough to do that.  My second thought was that most Israelis unfortunately like their meat well done. Perhaps the cooks just don’t know what rare really is and thought it better to undercook than overcook.

We sent a lot of it back to be re-fired — with varying levels of success.

The positives – the most attentive friendly wait staff I have encountered in Israel.  Our waiter was a tattooed oddly shaved gent named Shai.  He was a ball, and to be sure (despite our food), we left him a hefty tip.  The decor is authentic old-Israel-brick with vaulted ceilings & down-to-earth wooden furniture.  The bottomless wine glass is fun, and the appetizers are wonderful.

It was just a shame that the gimmick – the restaurant’s raison d’etre – was such a huge let down.  I won’t be going back too soon.

223


Gimmick #2: Classy yet friendly cocktail bar with creative, original recipes using local ingredients and liquors.

Sounds perfect! In a town where beer is king and most bars have usually never heard of a sidecar, 223 (named for its address – 223 Dizengoff) has a perfect recipe for success. Or so you’d think…

Atmosphere: 10; Service: 10; Cocktails: 3

Admittedly I’ve only been once.  But when you’re served the worst classic gin martini of your life at place that calls itself a state-of-the-art cocktail bar – you’ve got problems.

They have a ginger-lime-pineapple-lemon grass martini; Mediterranean caipirinhas; blood orange margaritas, and an awful lot more scrummy-sounding drinks.  And they are delicious.  Really delicious.  One drink even won an international award.

My issues:

  1. The glasses - if it’s a margarita, serve it in a margarita glass; if it’s a martini, serve it in a martini glass.  It makes a big difference.  People feel special drinking from these specially shaped large glasses.  The drinks go down better. There’s a reason they exist.  We were served in regular tall ridged glasses.  You couldn’t even call them highballs.
  2. Ice – cocktails should rarely be served with ice.  Our drinks came with lots of big ice cubes…and straws…(hello – where’s the salt for the rim of the margarita)…which leads me to suspect…
  3. Watered down drinks? I can’t prove it.  They might be super-strong.  I would hate to be slanderous here.  But the volume of the drink, the size of the glass, with all the different juices going in, and the ice (the ice!), just made it all feel fishy.  I guess, after all, you’re paying for the gimmick – not the booze.
  4. The WORST martini of my life! My sister told me I should have sent it back and assured me its common practice in Israel.  Call me a polite American.  I suffered the abomination.  I love classic cocktails.  Not that fruity-tooty isn’t great.  But I relished my few years in Chicago as a young professional, heading for swanky downtown hotel bars with other colleagues for dirty martinis or Manhattans or cosmopolitans.  And I love a classic martini.  Gin, never vodka.  Served pretty damned dry.  With a big ole olive or two.  Maybe even a dressed up blue cheese olive or two.  The drink I was served at 223 was not a martini.  I requested a real martini glass, if they had one, and the waitress insisted that they did.  Why my earlier order of a fruity martini didn’t come in one remains a mystery, but this supposed martini appeared in the correct glass.   That said, it was made of a substantially large percentage of vermouth.  I’m talking 35-50% vermouth.  Gin was the aftertaste.  It was really nasty.  It wasn’t served cold enough (no ice cubes could bail the bartender out using this glass), and the three olives were our tiny wrinkled Israeli variety (probably all they had).  They were, however, the best part of the drink.  And the laughable part?  They charged me 44 shekels for this drink – a full 5 shekels more than any other classy drink on their menu. A gin straight up may have cost me half the amount – and I would have gotten more.

I know.  I seem arrogant.  But when you order a chicken at a fried chicken stand and you get an egg, what can I say?  In this case, I will go back.  The bar is charming:  the decor is adorable, European, wallpapered, upholstered, cheery.  It’s right around the corner from my house.  The people are friendly. The service, prompt.  And it’s a smoke-free bar, if I remember correctly.

I will, however, be sticking with Scotch.

Here’s a fine article on how to order a martini.

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Some places are worth visiting just for the ambiance

And when living in Tel Aviv — sometimes you just want to get away.

Italy is always a perfect choice.

It was the second time I had visited Rustico, a charming, warm, stylish, (and if I’m honest – sexy) eatery.  The walls are artificially weathered, the paneling is a multicolored wooden puzzle, the authentic wood-burning pizza oven warms the chilly night air away, and the bar…is just a lot of fun.

As usual, it was crowded, and we didn’t have a reservation.  Luckily, as we were only three, there was space at the bar.  This turned out to be quite fortuitous — bar-side seats provide a bird’s eye view of ALL the cooking action.  That’s bravery for you — a kitchen that’s open for everyone to see — no need for a chef’s table here.

Our view...and our pastas being prepared

Simplicity is often the best policy

Here I must mention that I’m not a creature of habit. Sometimes I wish I were. I like to try everything. But this time, I didn’t.  I simply loved what I ate last time at Rustico, and I have often found myself craving it (and attempting variations of it at home).  And what kind of gourmet would I be if I didn’t relish giving in to cravings?  So I went with the simple Lemon & Spinach Pappardelle.  Dreamy.  I love pappardelle because it’s simultaneously a long and a wide pasta.  Think fettuccine that’s five times as wide.  It really holds a sauce well, and it’s heavy enough to feel hearty.  Because of this, I find the lighter butter-lemon sauce a perfect contrast.  It’s fresh fresh fresh, and oh so tangy – bearably so – but sometimes you need that tongue-curling goodness.

My dinner companions were Mom and Dad, and each ordered a risotto and another simple pasta dish. All well made.  We were really happy.  The only ho-hum element was my unremarkable Valpolicella.  They just don’t import anything really classy to Israel, I find time and time again (I’ve found it remarkably difficult to find my new favorites – Sicilian wines – at even the nicest wine stores). And unless you go to a restaurant that specifically calls itself a wine-bar, wine lists even at top eateries are extremely short.

For dessert we split the Scatziatina (sp?), pizza dough shmeared with chocolate, topped with Mascarpone, then closed up like a calzone and fired up in the pizza oven.  It’s the Italian version of a French crepe, I tell you.  Scrummy.

Verdict? A perfect place for a perfect night out.  It’s a place for a first date, a family dinner, or a celebration — it seems to dress up or down on demand.  Rustic-chic, I should say.  The food is a bit pricey (pastas 51-63 shekels; meats 62-93; small pizzas in the 40′s), but the decor, the super-attentive wait staff, and the gutsy clean-as-a-whistle kitchen crew make it worth your buck.

With a branch on Rothschild Blv in the south and Basel Street in the north, Rustico is a really great choice no matter where you find yourself…when craving a bit of an Italian getaway.

My parents are leaving tonight, so my two weeks of restaurant heaven are about to come to a close.  I’m slowly compiling my photos and thoughts about each. Restaurants to come include: Hashdera 34; Barbounia; and Rak Bassar (“Just Meat”).  I’m sure there are others, too I’m not thinking of.  So come back for a visit, and happy eating!

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I have never had a dining experience like this — and I’m afraid this quirky gem of a restaurant could become an addiction.

BlackOut in the Jaffa Port of Tel Aviv-Yafo is the ultimate theme restaurant.  Catch is – the gimmick inspires more fun and more meaning than any other eating experience you may ever have.

Why?

You eat in a pitch-black room, you can’t see your food (not to mention your cutlery, glasses, napkin, the water pitcher…), and you’re served by blind waiters and waitresses.

The Na Laga’at Center is the home of Black Out restaurant.  It’s exceptionally unique in that it’s perhaps the only center in the world that caters to the deaf, the blind, and the deaf-blind communities and enables them to give of themselves, be creative, and earn a decent salary while doing it.

Na Laga’at means “please touch,” a welcoming phrase that counters the typical “please don’t touch” signs we encounter all too often.  It’s a not-for-profit organization that opened its doors in 2007 and is comprised the Deaf-blind Acting Ensemble; Café Kapish, with its deaf waiters; and as mentioned, BlackOut, the pitch-black restaurant with its staff of blind waiters.  More than 70 people are employed here, most of whom are blind, deaf, or deaf-blind.

I haven’t yet seen their internationally acclaimed performance (“Not By Bread Alone” – where they bake bread on stage), and I’ve only ever grabbed a quick drink at their cafe during a huge arts fest (I’ve heard the barristas encourage you to order in sign language that they teach you), but this restaurant…this restaurant!  All I have to say is I left the building in total ecstasy.

Here’s the scoop.

You enter the big bright building (used to be an industrial hangar), take a left, and head for the reception area of the restaurant.  It’s crucial to make a reservation in advance because there is very limited seating, and the configuration is such that they need to arrange guests just right on communal tables.  The meal begins precisely at 9 pm (there’s a seating at 6 pm and a seating at 10 pm, but both are for abbreviated versions of the menu).  While you wait for everyone to arrive, a deaf bartender hands you a glass of pink champagne.  Once 9 pm rolls around (or thereabouts…it is Israel, after all), the hostess explains that you are to order in advance (prix fixe – 140 shekels for 3 courses & 90 shekels for 2 – fantastic kosher-dairy dishes…lots of fish, too), place all of your belongings -phones included – in lockers (if you lose anything in the restaurant, it’s near impossible to find), and wait for your table to be called.  All guests are escorted train-style, with hands on the person in front of them, and led to their tables slowly and carefully.

Because it really is pitch-black.  The walls are absorbent velvet.  There are a few buffer rooms that lead out, the final one with black lights…so there is no possibility of seeing a thing.  They warn that some people find it very disconcerting, unpleasant, or claustrophobic for the first few minutes.

I enjoyed it from the first second.  In fact, I left feeling euphoric, and I really did not want to leave. I swear, it was better than Disneyworld.

Highlights included -

  • Ordering the “mystery” for all three courses - the chef puts together something that isn’t on the menu – leaving you to figure it out in the dark. There is a veg or fish option, though.
  • Eating with your hands – So much fun! Try eating quinoa, ceviche, and ratatouille with your fingers! It felt really liberating.  I was so glad I there was a sink with soap upon entering and exiting.  When we left, my dad smugly declared that he had eaten everything with his silverware. Ah well, he missed half the fun!  At least he left with one thing to be proud of – he was the only one of all of us who felt sick and disoriented (and it seemed to us – bordering on a panic attack).
  • Figuring out the mystery food – I am a big foodie (although I hate the word), I am the ultimate kitchen improvisationist, I went to culinary school, and I work in wine.  I took this on as a personal challenge.  Piece of cake, right? For most, no.  But…I came out on top! Not only did I figure every dish out, I identified most if not all the spices and technical nuances of the dishes.  I’m a snooty snob, I know.  Then again, I was the only one adventurous enough to order the mystery dishes.  How many people do you know who’d go to a restaurant and say, give me whatever you got…I don’t want to know what it is…
  • Pouring water! It’s not just the finding and grasping the jug – it’s connecting the top of the jug to the glass, not spilling, knowing when there’s enough – my goodness! I think the best technique is to pour over a finger that is already dipped into the cup.
  • Talking without seeing.  You wouldn’t think this to be all that odd – most likely you’re going out to eat with people you already know.  But there was a freshness and an ease I haven’t felt in years with my family.  We’re a tense bunch.  Nerves.  Easy to rattle.  But at BlackOut, I spoke when I wanted, and said what I wanted.  I didn’t roll my eyes at my mother.  It flowed.  It was the healthiest moment my family has had all week.  I think it has something to do with not seeing facial expressions, not fiddling with clothing, not being to analyze the mood of the people by what you see.
  • Our dear waiter Eliran – your waiter is your ambassador. He leads you in, orients you, jokes with you, brings food, drinks, the works.  And we had conversations! Great conversations! We asked questions about being blind, about the dead waiters at the cafe, no holds barred.  It was so genuinely friendly and interesting. I dare say it even felt intimate. If I had to give an importance weight to the different elements of the restaurant, I would break it down as such: food 20%; darkness 40%; waiter 40%.  You cannot survive there without him.  He makes the darkness quite light, in every sense.
  • Leaving the restaurant filled with a sense of joy, mirth, peace, silliness, and energy.  I haven’t felt this “myself” in a long time.

Inside Na Laga'at - tables at the Capish Cafe circle around the BlackOut restaurant that sits inside that "big ship" looking construction - and the industrial hangar that the space was before

Here is what I remember of the menu.

My mysteries:

starter – smoked salmon topped with asparagus spears;

main – panko-breaded salmon (I know, they really should NOT have served salmon for both courses) on a bed of awesome authentic ratatouille;

dessert - malabi (a middle eastern type of pudding or custard – can be quite gelatinous – this wasn’t – very white – flavored with rosewater, nuts (peanuts in this case, but I prefer pistachio or almond), and shredded coconut, topped with a very sweet syrup).

Other memorable dishes my family had: ceviche of dennis fish on endive; some sort of pistachio gnocchi; seared drum fish with lovely herb infused quinoa salad; a creme anglaise filled pastry with halva (lovely sugared sesame paste); and a homemade chocolate-hazelnut ice cream (think nutella) with caramelized coriander seeds!

In between courses we were offered tiny little drinks – first a very spicy hot cider made with a bit of wine, orange juice, cinnamon, cloves, and rum – and before dessert, a teeny tiny passionfruit margarita.

I should stop writing.  I should’ve a while ago.  But if you’ve read this far, you can see how moved I was at this experience.  I felt I participated in some sort of process.  A performance.  It woke something inside of me.  My senses were heightened.  I felt a lot of love here among these people and this environment.

So, folks…if you live in Israel, you have no excuse not to go! It’s kosher, there’s tons for vegetarians, it’s for a good cause, it’s friendly people, great food, and it may just be the most therapeutic experience you’ll have over a table…or in the dark, for that matter…

I giggled for an hour after after we left.  I couldn’t stop smiling. I’m still smiling at the memory.

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The parents are visiting, “and tell ‘em what they’ve won, Bob…a glamorous expense-paid trip to exotic IKEA!”

So, I spent most of the day in the big blue box with Dad.  Flexing our capitalism muscles, we strolled the tchotchke-laden aisles and Scandinavian-designed dioramas, stroking terrycloth towels and comparing furniture colors under the glaring fluorescent lights.  I came out with some jolly good booty: a small bookshelf/dresser (the “Billy”), a bedside table (the “Kullen”), 3 mugs, 2 plastic bowls, dish-washing brushes, a measuring cup, a reading lamp, three vanilla candles, 6 large tulip-shapes wine glasses (finally something I can smell wine properly in), 6 drinking glasses (I broke at least 4 of our original 6), 2 double sheet/duvet sets, three terrycloth towels, 4 dishcloths, some energy-saving light bulbs, an electric socket splitter, and a power strip.

And upon paying, we were promptly confronted with – a hot dog stand.

When we passed by the food court earlier (Dad begging to stop and nosh claiming – hey, how often do we get to eat Swedish food…), I walked right on by, thinking it ridiculous to have a meal in the middle of a monopoly warehouse store, in a monopoly of a restaurant, simply because we’d already been shopping for 2+ hours and were parched and famished.  No siree, we could eat somewhere normal later.  Swedish food, indeed!

But after another 1.5 hours of shopping, as it typically goes at the Swedish colony of I…, Dad looked at the hot dogs, then looked at me and said, “Can I have one?”

These were plain old heated in one of those rotating metal rolling devices, hot dogs.  I looked at him and said, “no.” Yuck.  We’d be home in less than an hour! But then I took pity.  My own mouth parched from the lack of liquids, I wanted to stop and buy a bottle of water anyway.  So, what’s the harm?  This hot dog cost 5 shekels ($1.40), the water put me back 4 shekels ($1.10), and I was genuinely pleased with how financially sound this food and beverage purchase was.

There were no toppings besides ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise (mustard-only – We do come from Chicago, after all). But Dad was pleased all the same.  I surprised him with the hot dog, and it disappeared in under a minute.

Now, I’m not sure why they sell hot dogs at IKEA.  I think it’s weird.  It’s a little creepy.  And it’s all they seem to sell, ready-to-eat, at the exit door.  It’s not a typical Swedish or Israeli food, and there are certainly more interesting fast finger foods around. But after our whirlwind tour of the fascinating and luxurious land of I…, the red hots were a welcome familiar form of sustenance to ease our aching bellies as we began our return to civilization.

When you leave, I suppose you’re just too exhausted to think about the dodgy meat filling and the lack of pickles, relish, onions, tomatoes, and peppers.  You’re too tired to realize that you’re once again pulling out your wallet, just as you thought you couldn’t spend even one more penny.  You’re just glad to be eating while getting the hell out of there.  All good capitalistic adventures eventually come to an end.

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I was going to write a scathing restaurant review. I’ve written and rewritten it in my head for three days now.  I’m just going to go with what I have. Perhaps my anger has subsided. Or I realized how trivial it is to be angry at a restaurant over poached eggs.  Or not.  Here goes the post, in any case:

What I ended up getting...and I paid about $13 for it...pathetic.

Poached eggs are a perfect food.  I likes my yokes runny.  I like poached eggs on their own, over rice, over salads (Salade Lyonnaise being a long-time favorite), over toast, in sandwiches, on sandwiches.  You can basically count on any dish being vastly improved with the addition of a poached egg.

Restaurant rules I believe in and respect:

1) The menu is a contract (I had this drilled into me at culinary school)

2) The customer is (almost) always right (…and certainly be nice to them all at all costs).

Let us begin.

“Benedicts” is a popular eatery in Tel Aviv. They have two branches, both in very fashionable neighborhoods.  They are open 24 hours a day, and this is very very rare in Israel.  And their theme? Breakfast. Only breakfast, 24/7.

And it works.  It’s overpriced.  Very overpriced.  But it works.  It has this upscale American diner feel crossed with something vaguely European…like a pancake house plopped itself at a sunny indoor-outdoor cafe in Provence.  And as the name suggests…the signature dish is…Eggs Benedict.

Or is it? I’ve had it a couple times there.  I should have learned after the first time.  But you always have that thought…maybe it was a fluke last time…this time could be different.  Bottom line: it’s not real Eggs Benedict.  At the very least, even if you consider it a decent variation…it’s not well executed.

Definition of Eggs Benedict – 2 English muffins, toasted, topped with cooked ham or bacon (in good places stateside it’s often Canadian bacon), then topped with two poached eggs, all smothered in Hollandaise sauce.

Theirs rests atop thick cut slices of brioche, an eggy, buttery bread.  It doesn’t work.  At all.  It’s so thick, you don’t taste the bacon for the vastness of surface area below it.  It’s such a thick slice of bread, and such the wrong bread (it’s dense as hell!), that the egg yolk and sauce aren’t at all absorbed into it (something the spongy English muffin was born to do).  Personally – I think it’s irresponsible – I’ve made brioche and I know how many eggs go into it – AND with a Benedict – customers are essentially being served 4+ eggs, not just the two they think they’re eating. Finally, their Hollandaise sucks.  Big time.  It’s been a staple of the household I grew up in, and let me tell you, I don’t think their Hollandaise even counts.  There isn’t a detectable soupcon of lemon.  None.  And there goes the dish.

You’d think that would be my main complaint.  Wrong.

This post has probably gotten long enough so that nobody will read this far.  But I don’t care.  The main problem at Benedicts is their lack of customer service.  Every time I go, I never get what I want.  And they’re unpleasant about it every time.  I should have learned, and after this time, I have: just don’t go again.  So I won’t.

Here’s what happened.  I wanted the “Healthy Breakfast,” (no more crappy faux Benedict for me).  It said, “2 eggs any way you choose them” or something similar, and it came with salads and cheese and bread.  A healthy Israeli breakfast.  Fine.  The problem came when I ordered my eggs poached.  They said no, we don’t do poached eggs.  BS they don’t do poached eggs.

Long story short, after a long discussion with my waiter, and then a couple of long talks with the manager, it was clear I would not be getting my eggs.  Their explanation: Eggs Benedict is their signature dish.  They couldn’t go around serving poached eggs, willy nilly, when they wanted to maintain the poached eggs as only going with their signature dish.

Then why write, several times in the menu for other dishes, “eggs any way you want them?”  I say, breach of contract.  And even so, the customer is always right.  Would it have killed them to give me my eggs?  I was, after all, right.

I should have walked out.  And do you know what this spineless blogger did instead?  She ordered the Eggs Benedict — on their “normal bread” instead of their nasty brioche.  Because she just had to have poached eggs! It is, in fact, one of the few places in Tel Aviv you can eat them…but apparently…ONLY in a bad Eggs Benedict.

I vowed to write a scathing review and make sure all of my Israeli friends read it.  AND I vow now never to return.  Even though I’ve met the owner’s wife at a creative writing seminar.  Even though it is the closest restaurant to my house.  Even though some of their dishes are so-so.  Even though my doing this might not affect anyone else’s decision not to go (Israelis love the place – it’s a novelty – and they can get away with dodgy service because of it). Even though they’re the only ones open 24/7.

“Benedicts” has simply proven to be overpriced, mediocre, and arrogant. And there’s no fun in that, any day.  Any American iHop would have more business in Tel Aviv.  Their customer service certainly could run laps around what we get here.  So…I’ll just have to poach my eggs at home…as annoying as it is to do.

Aerial view of my breakfast. Never again.

One of the worst BLT's the world has known...also at Benedict's...falling apart bread, chewy lifeless flavorless cold bacon, you name it...my poor sister is the one being tortured here.

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