Tapas in Israel

Tapeo
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
http://www.tapeo.co.il/
Tapas
Not Kosher
Hertziliya Pituach
Muro theme
9 Shenkar St
09-954-6699 / 09-954-8030
Tel Aviv
Gaudi theme
16 Ha’arba St
03-624-0484 / 03-561-0489

After having spent a semester living in Madrid, you’d think I’d be incredibly familiar and naturally accustomed to eating tapas.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  In Madrid, the majority of tapas are meaty, a major issue for someone who doesn’t eat non-kosher meat.  Luckily, tapas bars in Israel are more conscious of those with dietary restrictions.

Tapeo is no exception.  With a section of the menu devoted to vegetarian tapas, there was no lack of options for us.  Jackpot!

Our trip to Tapeo was rather spontaneous and, in hindsight, Doug and I are both thrilled that we ended up going.  We initially planned to have dinner in Tel Aviv, but were too tired to bother with the idea of public transportation on a Thursday evening.  So, on a whim, we decided to go to Tapeo.  We made a last minute reservation to the local restaurant, which is apparently quite the hotspot on Thursday nights.

Tapeo in Hertziliya

Whether you’re taking in the restaurant’s décor from the wrap around wooden bar, from a table on the raised platform, or from the upstairs seating area, it’s quite apparent that the theme isn’t entirely Spanish, as one would imagine given that it’s a tapas bar.  While a Muro-esque painted adorned the length of one wall, the color scheme and other images were reminiscent of Aztec symbols.  The indoor wrought-iron street lamps, however, gave the place a more European metropolitan feel.  All in all, not an entirely unified theme, but it came together to look fantastic and elegant, if nothing else.

Tapeo in Hertziliya

Tapeo in Hertziliya

We had some trouble choosing our tapas from the long list of vegetable options, but we eventually settled on four of the dishes along with a salmon tapas.

Our asparagus tapas came out first, looking simple but tasty with its pickled lemons & spiced aioli sauces and little char marks from the grill.  The asparagus was cooked absolutely perfectly, not too hard or soft, but tender and easy to bite.

Asparagus with pickled lemon & spiced aioli sauces

The patatas bravas came out next.  Each potato cube looked beautifully and evenly crispy, a true marvel worth admiring (from a potato lover’s perspective).  It tasted even more amazing than it looked.  The inside of each potato piece was soft and melty, a perfect contrast to the crusty outside.  The potatoes were perfectly salted and covered with a tiny bit of tomato sauce and spiced aioli sauce, which gave each piece a creamy, refreshing touch.  The one thing I would have added was a little more spice.

Patatas bravas with tomato and spiced aioli sauces

The paprika-crusted salmon was next.  As people who aren’t huge fish fans, we didn’t expect much.  But the salmon was shockingly good!  It was cooked such that the outside was beautifully crusty and crispy while the middle was still slightly raw.  While usually not our thing, it was amazing how tender it was and how the fish really just melted in our mouths.  The beans that went along with it weren’t too flavorful, but added a chewy texture to contrast the crunch of the outer part of the fish and the buttery consistency of the inner part of the fish.

Paprika-crusted salmon

The cauliflower that came after was probably my favorite (with the patatas bravas a very close second).  The chefs somehow managed to get the cauliflower to brown perfectly and evenly.  It looked, quite accurately so, simply mouthwatering.  The cauliflower was not only perfectly colored, but also perfectly cooked—it had a nice, toothsome crunch to it.  The creamy anchovy aioli sauce was cooling and refreshing, with a nice garlicky bite.  Simple and delicious.

Cauliflower with creamy anchovy aioli sauce

Our final tapas were the mushrooms.  Neither of us eats many mushrooms, but both of us seem quite curious about them and open to trying them.  Consequently, the mushroom filled with cheese topped with saffron sauce intrigued us.  Luckily so, since the dish was quite tasty.  The mushroom and hearty goat cheese made for an incredible combination along with the very mild, but defined saffron sauce.  Earthy and comforting.
By the time we finished all of our tapas, we were appreciative of the restaurant chefs’ skills.  They clearly knew how to handle their vegetables: cooking them to perfection, putting together dishes that highlighted the flavor of each one, adding only simple sauces that completed their flavors.

Mushrooms filled with cheese, topped with saffron sauce

Despite our desire for more of each of the dishes we tried, we restrained ourselves in the interest of having a dessert.  The waitress described numerous options, but the first one she mentioned stuck: churros con chocolate.

The classic Spanish dessert called to me at the moment and I was glad they did since they were divine! Never had I had churros so good, so tasty, so addictive! While they weren’t truly Spanish in prepartion (the Spanish eat their vhurros without anything sweet, really), they made me want to go back to Spain and survive off churros for the rest of my life.  They came out, mini style (so cute!), covered in sugar, along with three dips: dark chocolate, white chocolate, and dulce de leche.  All of them were amazing! The churros themselves were crunchy on the outside, but smooth and creamy on the inside.  They were gentle, but incredibly flavorful.  When eaten with the dark chocolate (which was unfortunately a little frozen), one enjoyed the sensation of richness.  The white chocolate gave a sense of luxury, while the dulce de leche contributed an added sweetness. So. Good!

Churros

Churros con chocolate

Despite my sadness when they were gone, I was thrilled that they left a noticeable and amazing aftertaste, reminding me throughout the rest of our night that we had a lovely dinner followed by the most delicious churros ever—truly a great way to end a meal!

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