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Dec 14, 2013 10:41 AM

Best Israeli food?

Price/location/ambience not important--just looking for the best Israeli food in Manhattan. TIA!

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  1. Gazala Place owned by Israeli Druze.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sugartoof

      +1 enthusiastic for gazala

      Also taim- the nolita location actually has decent seating fyi

      1. re: sugartoof

        Looks very, very good! Thank you!!

        1. re: sugartoof

          I went there once and was so disappointed in the big appetizer plate we left right after that without any entrees! The menu sure looked good, though...

        2. Azuri Cafe is pretty good based on this complete idiot and neophyte's opinion about Israeli cuisine.

          As an aside, I am told Taboon has some interesting Israeli wines.

          18 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Gazala Place sounds intereesting, the best olive oil I ever had was unfiltered made by Druze in Israel. Their pita/pizza was amazing too. That was made in their house.
            Now having lived in Israel for a year, I'd like to know the difference between Israeli food and Middle Eastern or Arab food.
            Also, Nish Nush in Tribeca has very good hummus, falafel and pea soup.
            Yemenite Cafe in Bay Ridge is fantastic for lamb and for their giant pita

            1. re: foodwhisperer

              "Israeli food and Middle Eastern or Arab food."

              No difference and all the difference in the world.
              There are commonalities and flavors that carry over between different regions, sub-regions, ethnic identities, religions, and then there are very big differences too. It's the same diversity you see in any country or large region. Some of it's universal, and some of it's a matter or seasoning, or something as simple as raisins vs. apricots, or if one area has fish, or tomatoes and another doesn't.

              1. re: sugartoof

                Basically there is not much difference. Except Middle Eastern seems to have more specialties. I don't think you are correct about regions, but I think you are correct as for as ethnic identities i.e. Yemenite, East European, Palestinian, Egyptian,. There aren't many regions considering the whole country is the size of N.J. Then again it's possible to ski and swim in the same day .
                There are interesting fruits and vegetables to eat though. Eaten by all the groups there. The apricots that have several big "pits" called shesik in Hebrew and Mish Mish in Arabic. The kolrabi, the sabra prickly pears. Lots of goodies to eat.

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  I wasn't suggesting Israel has regional dynamics amongst it food culture, but if you're looking to note differences between Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, some of it will be due to the landscape. Otherwise, they all have some similar dishes. One might make a dish as a soup, or a tagine, rice, or whatever, but the ideas will be generally the same. When you look at a dish that uses apricots, and look through the recipes across the region, some areas substitute dates, or raisins instead. Then depending on where those families migrated to, you see differences in the traditions that way.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      What I wrote, someone else beat me to it - so no need to be redundant :-)

                    2. re: foodwhisperer

                      Israelis call apricots "mish mish". The fruit they call "shesek" is something else entirely. Some translate shesek as "loquats", some as "medlars".

                        1. re: bcc

                          shesek looks and tastes like apricots with a few big seeds. I never tasted a loquat but sounds like you may be right. Mish mish is how apricot in Arabic

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            I don't find that shesek tastes like apricots at all. The former are much more watery in a refreshing way. Apricots are thicker and denser.

                          2. re: bcc

                            You are correct. I went on Google translate and shesek are loquats. I guess I know what loquats taste like now.
                            Also, interestingly ( to me) mish mish is apricot in Hebrew.
                            In Arabic it is something else. However, Arabs from Galilee region say Mish Mish for apricots, also as an expression of endearment i.e. enti mish mish ( you are an apricot)

                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              That is because Arabs in the Galilee are Israelis. There are also Christian Israelis as well as Egyptian/Syria/Iranian/Iraqi Jews.

                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                  I call my younger daughter Mishmish :-)

                          3. re: foodwhisperer

                            Well, if you want the most authentic Middle Eastern food, you want Moroccan. That'll most resemble the Fertile Crescent food of yore.

                            1. re: Chowrin

                              According to Wikpedia "...he Fertile Crescent are Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Occupied Palestinian territories, besides the southeastern fringe of Turkey and the western fringe of Iran..." far far from Morocco. I like Moroccan food, but it is just a variation of Middle Eastern food, I don't think its most authentic and don't see how it would most resemble an area where it wasn't.

                              1. re: foodwhisperer

                                Climate change. Most middle eastern countries are far drier than they used to be. Hence the food folks make there are different than they used to be.

                                And I'm just sticking my tongue out at the folks who have to be "most authentic"... don't take me too seriously.

                              2. re: Chowrin

                                Every nation in the area has authentic food.

                                This is true no matter which period is your preference, "Fertile crescent" or whatever. There are translations of Medieval era cookbooks which confirm this.

                                Even the Tagines of Morocco can be found in similar form elsewhere. Add in the European influence, and the reality that most Medi/Middle Eastern-ish menus have become pretty generic today, and it's hard to make grand statements over authenticity.

                          4. try olympic pita on 37th and broadway (or thereabouts)

                            1. Last year we went on a 2 week food adventure of sorts in Israel which was more educational than the entire 9 years of living there. I dont eat israeli food in NYC as often as I like because I like to eat so many different things but from my experience/understanding...

                              Gazala's/Gazala's Place - The closest to eating Hummus in Israel as far as I'm concerned. Very simple and freshly made daily. I'm just not a huge fan of that paper thin bread. Also love the bourekas, especially the one with sun-dried tomato. One of the stops in Israel was a Druze hospitality lunch at Gazala's village

                              Taboon - If I have to pick one Israeli restaurant this would probably be it. Havent been in a few years but had 3 nice meals here. Great bread cooked in their Taboon oven, and one of my favorite desserts in town, the Silan. To prepare for Taboon's opening initially one of Israel's top chefs at the time helped out with the menu and preparations

                              Taboonette - Baby Taboon. Falafel-less pocket food. A good place to try the Sabich - a veggie sandwich invented in Israel not too long ago

                              Nish Nush - Best Falafel in NYC (I tried all of them just the other day ;)) Edging Taim. I frequent Azuri which is pretty good but prefer the other 2

                              Balaboosta - Still havent been but something tells me owner Einat (owns Taim and former Chopped winner) knows what she's doing

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Ziggy41

                                Taboon sounds interesting. When I lived in Israel, I didn't frequent restaurants. I was a cook on a kibbutz, the veggies were fresh and delicious but the meat was pretty bad. The best foods I ate were at an Arab wedding . Amazing lamb dishes, rice with pine nuts, incredible home cooked food. The village grew their own almonds. The sahalab (sp) in Jerusalem was always a treat. The Yemenite falafel was the best, usually in Sfat. When I went back as a tourist years later, I experience a great meal in Drooz house near Mt Meron.
                                I agree on Nish Nush for falafel, I like their hummus also. Paterson NJ has the best kefta, falafel and pita IMO. but thats a different board.

                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                  One can argue (me included) that the best food in Israel is arab food by israeli arabs. So I'm not surprised by your experience and how can one compare Arab and Israeli food.

                                  I miss going to places like The Lebanese Restaurant in Abu Ghosh (thats what its called - the Lebanese restaurant) near Jerusalem where you just let them take care of you without menus, and get some amazing mezzes and flavors you never experienced before. We need some (or more) of that here

                                  I owe you a falafel ball or 3 for the initial Nish Nush recco. Ok, make it a sandwich

                                  1. re: Ziggy41

                                    Food on a Kibbutz can not in any way be compared to what's going on in the rest of Israel - but it's true, Israeli Arabs, or the Arabic speaking population within Israel, always made the best food, until recently when the younger generation picked it up.

                                    Back to the Kibbutz style dining - they're often all about communal dining halls, living off the land, and the results are pretty boring.

                                  2. re: Ziggy41

                                    If/when you go to balaboosta the crispy cauliflower at dinner is cravable.....

                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                      THATS IT! I'm adding balaboosta to the top of the list. Right between Piora and the new chicken over rice guy by work. You had me at Cauliflower!
                                      Any other musts?

                                      1. re: Ziggy41

                                        Swiss chard spaghetti sounds lame but was great, my friend loved the short ribs. Be warned it is crazy loud at prime times

                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                                          So I took my own Balaboosta and kids to Balaboosta last night and we loved it. I remembered you mentioned the Swiss chard spaghetti and it turned out to be a big hit which meant I got just about none of it. Lamb Kebab special, Hummus, and cauliflower were great as well. Banana bread pudding was NOLA quality, and that Knaffe was like Meshugenah good.

                                          Thanks Ttrockwood ;)

                                          1. re: Ziggy41

                                            Oh great- Sounds like an amazing meal! I'll have to return and try that bread pudding..

                                    2. Instead of Israeli how about Jewish-Italian? Try Lattanzi in mid-town. This is the description from their website:
                                      CLASSIC CUISINE OF THE ITALIAN JEWS
                                      The Roman Jewish community is the oldest in the World amongst those outside Israel. Until 1870 the Jews were confined to the ghetto where they held on firmly to their religion and culture. Because they were a poor people their traditionally simple style of cooking endured through the centuries. It could be said that the everyday plain cooking of the pagans and Christians of ancient Rome was an imitation of this Jewish cuisine.

                                      We would like to offer you a traditional light, delicate and most of all a nouvelle Roman Jewish cuisine and a few dishes (the most requested ones) from the Venetian Jewish cuisine for those in search of novelty, because it is invitingly out of the ordinary for dining in New York.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Mazzo

                                        I ate in Sabatino's, in Trestevere, I think that's the jewish area. excellent food.
                                        I also had good food in the Jewish section of Venice. It was good.