Monday, July 27, 2015

Dining Out: Benedict

During my family's Israel trip, we had incredible luck with restaurants. We spent a few weeks gathering recommendations from family and friends on where we should dine out in each of the neighborhoods we'd be exploring.

One of my Boston friends (a recent transplant to Tel Aviv) suggested we try a place called Benedict. Why did we take that recommendation above others? Probably because her email said, "They serve breakfast 24 hours a day." 24 hours a day? That's like . . . an urban legend.

It was the morning after my cousin's wedding that we decided to try it. What better way to cure a hangover than with a massive breakfast?

Benedict is located at the corner of Ben Yehuda Street and Jabotinsky Street, two busy streets in north Tel Aviv (and just two blocks from the beach). You can spot it by its beautiful outdoor patio.

At the time we arrived there were no available seats outside, so they offered to seat us inside, but in the big front window. We agreed and were lead to our table.

The interior design at Benedict is a really fun one.

Each of the booth walls are painted a different color and have breakfast dishes affixed to them!

The one directly next to us had a plate, a fork, an orange juicer, a coffee mug, a sugar bowl and salt and pepper shakers. The circle on the right says "boker tov" which means "good morning" in Hebrew.

I knew I was going to love Benedict when I was handed the menu. Right at the top it says, "Good morning and welcome to the wonderful world of breakfast." On the menu they are sure to highlight that they are open 24 hours a day.

The first thing our waiter Matan asked (I love the name Matan) was if we'd like any cocktails. Benedict has an entire menu of just mimosas! Bananas, orange, peach, lychee, pineapple and more!

They also have a series of brunch cocktails, each highlighting a different fresh fruit.

While we looked over the multitude of breakfast options, Matan brought us a bread basket and a trio of spreads - butter, apple cinnamon jam and Nutella. I love this country.

Everything in the bread basket was fresh out of the oven and you can really taste that kind of difference. I grabbed the multigrain roll (more on that in a minute).

After much debate, each of us finally narrowed down to one meal choice. My dad went with the salmon benedict. While he said the hollandaise was good, the poached eggs were nicely done and the salmon was fresh, the brioche toast was so dry that he couldn't get past it.

I ordered what's called the Balkan style Israeli breakfast. It's a few things - first, an omelette with creamed spinach, onion, cherry tomatoes and feta cheese.

As well as an Israeli salad (diced cucumber, tomato and red onion), tehina and avocado hummus. Remember earlier I mentioned I snagged a multigrain roll from the bread basket? I used it to scoop up every last bit of that creamy, rich avocado hummus.

A few of my family members decided to order more brunch/lunch type items. My sister went with the Greek salad. She described it as, "the perfect ratio of veggies to feta cheese. It had so much feta. The rustic chop of the vegetables gave it a very satisfying crunch." She went on to say, "It was just the right amount of dressing and also the ideal portion size for me to feel full, but also still ready to put my bathing suit on." My mom then chimed in, "Oooo. That's important! Right that down."

My brother-in-law chose the chicken salad sliders. It came with three mini sliders. Each was stacked on a bed of lettuce with a huge scoop of chicken salad and then topped with a juicy slice of tomato.

He filled me in, "I love the toasted sesame seed bun. The chicken salad itself has green apples, almond slivers and curried mayo. It's so delicious!"

His meal also came with a side of French fries, which we all dug into. They were super crispy.

As you can see, what had quite the spread!

Eventually we had to tap out. No one finished there plate because the servings were so huge. My brother-in-law decided to take his last slider back to the apartment, put in the fridge, then take it to the beach later.

As our plates were being cleared, Matan brought us wet naps. Each one said, "Good morning. 24 hours a day." These people understand branding.

My favorite little touch was actually the business card that came with the check. It read, "That was a good morning!" Then it encouraged you to write a review on TripAdivsor. Very smart!

Two other things to note, each breakfast at Benedict comes with two drinks. So you can get coffee and a cocktail or hot tea and a fresh fruit juice. They also play awesome music. During our meal we heard Robin Thicke, Michael Jackson and my personal favorite, Blackstreet's "No Diggity."

Benedict has three locations in Israel. Be sure to see if one of them is near you on your next trip!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dining Out: Suzana

On our Israel trip, it seemed that with each restaurant we went to, my family would describe their dishes as "the best XYZ I've ever had!" Truly, each time we went somewhere it was even better than the place before.

That trend continued at an outdoor cafe called Suzana in a neighborhood of Tel Aviv called Neve Tzedek.

I love Neve Tzedek (and not just because my cousin lives there). It feels like the quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods in Europe where you explore narrow, cobble stone streets, never knowing what hidden gems you'll find as you turn the next corner.

Suzana is on Shabazi Street, the main drag in Neve Tzedek. They are an extremely popular lunch spot because their whole patio is beneath the shade of lush, green trees.

The day we went the temperature was hovering between 85 - 90 degrees and we were ready for some ice cold beverages.

We were seated at a table in the shade with a great people watching view.

When I looked up from my seat, my eyes were treated to a beautiful combination of sun, green leaves and chirping birds.

Thankfully, Suzana had version of their menu in English so we didn't have to struggle and guess what our options were. Despite 13 years of Hebrew school as a child, I have retained next to nothing. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

We began with a pitcher of lemonade, packed with fresh with mint. If you haven't noticed from my previous posts, Israelis love their mint!

Despite the generous number of mint leaves in the pitcher, the lemonade itself didn't actually taste like mint at all.

My mother and sister each ordered ice coffees. They both became addicted to this drink and I think if they had to sum up our week and a half in one sentence it would be, "The wedding was amazing and we really loved the Israeli ice coffee."

Their eyes rolled into the back of their heads with their first sips. My sister said, "It's so rich and decadent that it almost tastes like a dessert." My mom even ordered a second glass!

While we were perusing the menu, our waiter brought us two loaves of bread - one white and one multigrain. The bread was so fresh. It had a nice firm crust, but a soft, chewy, doughy center.

To start, my dad ordered the eggplant and tehina. Those who have been reading this blog a long time know that my dad is a man of very few words (especially when it comes to describing food), but he couldn't stop talking about this dish. He said, "I could lick this plate. This is the most tender grilled eggplant I have ever tasted. It has such a silky, smooth texture. The pairing of the eggplant, tehina and lemon was superb."

At our end of the table, the girls were sharing the leek and potato latkes. We were expecting a shredded vegetable texture, like you would get with a Hanukah potato latke, but these were more like patties. They had a crispy outer shell and were excellent dunked in the cold sour cream.

For lunch, my mom actually ordered the traditional Israeli breakfast. First they brought her an Israeli salad (tomatoes, red onions, cucumber) which came with sides of feta cheese, labane cheese and sour cream.

Next she received scrambled eggs with home fries. She called this plate, "simple," which you can see it clearly was.

My sister ordered the green salad with grilled chicken, which she raved was, "the best grilled chicken I've ever had." See, I told you they kept saying that!

She went on to say, "This lettuce tastes farm fresh. The tomatoes are ripe and juicy, the roasted peppers are velvety and the pine nuts add a nice crunch."

I also went with a salad - the Greek. It was an enormous portion topped with tomatoes, red onions and a boat load of feta! For me, it was overdressed, but still yummy.

Down at the boys' end of the table, my brother-in-law was about to dig into a big plate of schnitzel. Quick side bar, when my sister was in kindergarten, her class was putting together a class cookbook full of everyone's favorite recipes. Five year old Emma asked my dad to include his recipe for schnitzel as her recipe. Clearly she married the right person!

My brother-in-law described the schnitzel as "crispy with a batter that was just a little sweet." He also mentioned that the house made ketchup was a solid addition. 

Though my dad was having a hard time imagining eating anything else after that heavenly grilled eggplant, he did place an order for lamb meatballs. The dish was ground lamb served with jasmine rice, garnished with almonds and grapes.

As you can see, we were having quite the feast!

After we finished and our plates were cleared, I asked my family for any final thoughts on Suzana. They said:

"I don't know how you could do better than Suzana. Outstanding food, great service and such a charming setting. We need to find another day this week to come back." - Mom

"The experience on the outdoor patio is not to be missed." - Dad (really getting into the commentary!)

I would also like to add that most outdoor restaurants in Tel Aviv are plagued by stray cats under and in between all the tables. They are constantly begging for food. I did not see one cat on the Suzana patio. A miracle!

Visit Suzana at 9 Shabazi Street in Neve Tzedek.
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