Being back in Israel for my partner and I’s four year anniversary could only mean one thing: eating! Because it’s true, the food in this tiny and only slightly controversial country is some of the best in the world. Tel Aviv even made it to the top 10 food cities in the world in 2021! With such a diverse population and emphasis on local ingredients, it’s only normal that the quality is sky high. For someone so food-focused as me, living here was absolute paradise. The fact that the country shuts down on Saturdays barely bothered me because it gave me the space to hone my craft (and waistline).
Because the anniversary fell on such a blessed and cursed Saturday, we knew our options were limited. Our apartment is a couple cities away from Tel Aviv, and therefore in a separate dimension. You see, there is no public transit on the Sabbath and so us unfortunate carless folks are stuck taking the communal taxis called moniot shirut. These iconic vehicles, while extremely convenient and economical, are a bit of a farce, especially on Saturdays when there are no other options. More often than not have I been sat on the floor of the vehicle feeling every single pothole on the main drag that connects my city to Tel Aviv because the driver wanted to make the extra 16 shekels and I was desperate enough to pay them.
After a leisurely morning filled with debauchery, it was time to celebrate just how fabulous a couple we are, and so we got pretty to strut our stuff in 90 degree weather (2 months in the US and I’ve converted to the imperial system). We traipsed down the street with no particular destination in mind and decided to leave it up to the gods of the moniot shirut to tell us where to go. I don’t recommend this method at all as the gods in question are impossibly fickle.
We couldn’t believe our luck-after a mere minute of waiting on the corner one of the iconic yellow vehicles showed its welcome face. Great, we thought. We can go to the Sarona neighborhood in Tel Aviv and find an activity from there. But this was naturally too good to be true. I suppose the driver didn’t like our faces because he slowed down enough for us to see the empty seats in the van, only to rush off again. No worries, it happens. But when the same thing happened twice more in the course of 5 minutes, we decided to say fuck it.
There is exactly one restaurant that meets the standard in our city and it’s not even that close to the apartment. It’s where anyone of any sort of taste visits because it is tasty and not kosher, which means it is open on the Sabbath. It’s called Triola and is cute, modern, and Italian. The food is nice and the establishment features the best service in the city, not that that’s saying much. And so we walked 2 miles down the least attractive street in the country to this weird area that was once occupied by factories and now hosts a small collection of bars and restaurants that are great in theory but in practice rather shite. Triola lies right on the edge of the collection, which also means there’s no need to get upset at the sight of bastardized Mexican food and poorly cooked sausages.
By the time we’d arrived at the restaurant, those few extra minutes of primping were for not naught. My thick curls were both laden down and extra voluminous in the way that only my hair can do in Israeli weather, and my partner was shiny as a mirror. In other words, we looked like locals in the height of summer. Not at all put off, the hostess seated us at the bar, which was highly advantageous in as much as it required much less wild gesticulation to get a waiter’s attention.
We shared the only English menu available at the restaurant (how the mighty have fallen) and decided on truffled cauliflower, beef carpaccio, entrecôte, and shrimp in an infuriatingly vague sounding sauce. Since I tried to eat absolutely dreadful carpaccio on Father’s Day in Berkeley, the hope for a satisfactory substitute was high. And the chefs didn’t disappoint. This carpaccio was generous in both size and quality of meat and covered in flakes of delightful parmesan, an unusual sight in Israel because of kosher laws forbidding meat and milk on the same plate. The cauliflower had been blanched, then roasted in a special taboon oven and served with an umami bomb of a truffled aioli. A taboon is a traditional oven often used by the Druze to make their crepe-like bread. Our mains arrived and we were both pleased. Now my partner likes his steak highly overcooked (ok medium), so I refused to try it, and he sees shrimp as plump sea cockroaches, but we both enjoyed our mains and that was enough. The steak, though in my humble opinion far too brown, looked juicy enough while being rather low in fat for such a cut. My shrimp were pleasantly bathing in a white wine and tomato sauce surrounded by asparagus. Lucky them.
Two lovely coffees later and we were on our way home. The way back felt much shorter this time as a good meal can often do. A quick stop at the outdoor gym and we were both flabbergasted. No less than 12 empty moniot shirut passed by in the time it took us to brand our butts on the equipment. We arrived at the apartment completely disheveled and collapsed in unison under the welcoming chill of the air conditioner. Happy anniversary.