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It’s Thursday night and Tel Aviv is hopping.

Diners are lining up outside of Port Said restaurant; the sidewalk is filled with drinkers. It’s a similar story nearby at Santa Katarina. If you haven’t booked a table, good luck. Across town at the Salon, it’s even more lively. The dining room is jammed and the terrace is packed with people smoking, chatting on their phones or waiting for a table. Many are doing all three.

Despite the specter of confrontation as Iran entrenches itself near Israel’s border with Syria, Israelis are partying like they’re on top of the world. And with good reason. Tourism is booming—the number of visitors last year soared 22 percent to a record and is rising even more quickly in 2018. The economy is healthy, unemployment is low and inflation almost non-existent.

Israel has one of the most exciting dining scenes in the world, and it is just starting to be discovered as a food destination like New York or London. Restaurateurs in Tel Aviv say as many as 30% of their guests are now foreign visitors, led by Americans, British, Russians, French and more.

o create a kitchen for the new Israel, nothing to eat. Now, the Israelis are mixing between the (culinary) fashions that are happening all around the world and cooking their own small memories from their grandmothers.”

During a weeklong visit to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Bethlehem last month, I made it to about 25 restaurants. I followed up on recommendations from several people, including Ottolenghi; Jeremy Borrow, head chef at the Palomar, London; and the restaurateur Yair Bekier. I fell in love with Israeli wines as well as the food and with the vibrancy of the restaurant scene.

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Vijay Nanda

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