My recent culinary experiences have led me down the impossible path of defining the meaning of the term “Israeli Food”. As a land of immigrants, the local cuisine is an eclectic mix of dishes from Eastern Europe (Ashkenazi cooking), North Africa (Sephardic cooking) and food borrowed from neighboring Arab countries. Which ever way you decide to define it, one thing is certain – Casserole in Neve Zedek, Tel Aviv’s first neighborhood, offers authentic oriental (Iraqi, Tripolitan, and Moroccan) comfort food.
Located at the beginning of Lilienblum in a pleasantly renovated 1920’s building, the d?cor is refreshingly modern and offers a warm, friendly and inviting dining environment. A small bar at the entrance and the Greek music playing in the background contribute to the feeling of a genuine oriental tavern. The restaurant offers a small, but surprisingly diverse menu based around meat slowly-cooked on a low flame. My companion for the evening and I opted for the degustation – a little bit of everything.
Among the dishes, we were served Kukala (lamb fat covered in semolina and served in a stew), three kinds of Kibbeh (meat-filled semolina dumplings with beets, okra or a sour Hamousta broth) and stewed meet. However, the highlights for me were a delicious dish of mangold and meat; and chicken in preserved lemons and chickpeas. The meat was so tender and succulent that it just melted in our mouths. An ice-cold beer really hit the spot. For the end to a perfect meal, we went for the house tea and a plate of semolina cake. The cake was moist and light and the tea was just divine. Made with spices, rose buds and ginger, the owners claim that it is a blend that was served in synagogues in Tripoli after services. The restaurant is Kosher and open weekdays until midnight.
Although the waitress assured us that it was meant for two, we had a lot of trouble finishing the meal. Two things are certain – you will not leave here hungry and you will walk away having had a unique and tasty Israeli dining experience.
3 Lilienblum, Tel Aviv