Chefs Miki Nir and Roman Elazarov
WINNIPEG — Tel Aviv has become a “culinary superpower,” a city where a unique culinary culture has blossomed, says master chef of the city’s Dan Panorama Hotel, Miki Nir.
Nir and chef Roman Elazarov were here on Jan. 29 to prepare a special $150-a-plate, five-course kosher Tu b’Shvat meal for a Jewish National Fund (JNF) dinner held at the Fairmont Hotel.
The event was attended by about 75 people, including Ovide Mercredi, chief of Grand Rapids First Nation and former national chief of the Assembly of first Nations. Mercredi was seated next to Mel Lazareck, the new president of JNF Winnipeg.
In an interview following the event, Nir said that between the falafel stands and gourmet restaurants, as well as the large spectrum of French, North African, Italian, Persian, Chinese and east European eateries, Tel Aviv has become a top gastronomic destination.
Nir, who has been working at the Dan Panorama for 17 years, noted that the menus at the hotel have changed over time. “We used to serve a lot of Jewish food, with eastern European flavours. But now there is less of that and more Middle Eastern dishes, with distinctly Israeli touches,” he said. “We are taking the recipes that our mothers made at home and are adapting them to new gourmet standards.”
According to Nir, Tel Aviv’s food industry has had to adapt to the increased number of international tourists this year, “Tourism has been exploding in the last year in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in the county. The Dan Panorama is completely full all the time, and the situation is the same for all the other hotels along the beach strip. You can no longer just book a room for a night – a seven-day minimum is required,” he said.
“We anticipate that it will be the same throughout the spring and summer. We’ve noticed a real increase in the numbers of business travellers. When it comes to food, the business traveller wants a high level of professionalism and service.”
Nir said he likes to go to Tel Aviv’s upscale gourmet restaurants to sample the offerings of other well-known chefs. “There has been a real development in the genre of gourmet food in Tel Aviv in the last few years,” he noted.
Top restaurants use fresh, locally grown vegetables, and chefs create superb seasonal dishes with the highest quality ingredients.
“The chefs are using French techniques with local Israeli, Middle Eastern or Arab touches,” Nir said. “Prices at these gourmet restaurants range from expensive to very expensive to very, very expensive.”
Nir said popular Tel Aviv restaurants include the one at Dan Panorama as well as Cordelia under chef Nir Zook; Rafael’s under chef Rafi Cohen; Moul Hayam; Roshfeld, a new cuisine bistro; and Katit, which serves dishes featuring “a combination of tastes.”
Gourmet restaurants in Tel Aviv are known for their innovative and exacting chefs and also for their professional service, Nir said.
Elazarov, who was trained by Nir and also works at the Dan Panorama, said that “in Tel Aviv, the food is best in the summer, when there is so much fresh fruit and vegetables available.”
Elazarov, who has a young family, prefers the “steakiyot” restaurants of Tel Aviv, which focus on grilled meats, hummus and fresh vegetable salads.
“I like Middle Eastern restaurants which are authentic and affordable for a family. There are some restaurants such as Yitzhak HaGadol, where people stand in line to wait for the food, and it’s expensive, but they are willing to pay,” he said
Elazorov is looking forward to the upcoming spring and summer.
“Everyone in the food industry is excited about the prospects for the upcoming months. Already this year has been one of the most successful years ever for tourism,” he said.
“We are preparing for a big wave of tourists who will come to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday in the spring and expect there to be lots of tourists this summer.”