Zakaim, Tel Aviv2015-02-28
- Phone : 03-613-5060
Zakaim, 20 Simtat Beit HaSho’eva, Tel Aviv
Zakaim -זכאים. This vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv has excelled in bringing vegan cuisine to the forefront of diner’s minds. The dishes are inventive but simple, combining staple ingredients like onions, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and other vegetables in interesting ways.
This has allowed Zakaim to attract many non-vegans and non-vegetarians into their establishment. Their simple decor is homey and inviting, with their mix-and-matched chairs and tables, and the colourful array of second-hand lids that decorate the wall. The music is noticeably pop- and psychedelic-rock like the Beatles, Beach Boys and Jefferson Airplane. Like the music this hippie vegan heaven has mass appeal.
Chef Harel Zakaim does not believe in the aggressive form of veganism, shying away from the extreme tactics of famed Israeli vegan zealot Gary Yourofsky. Chef Harel believes if he can convince anyone to a vegan lifestyle it might be through his Lido Salad – a delectable combinations of tart kholorabi with sweet and soft watermelon and candied cashews. Or perhaps even the highly regarded hand torn roasted potatoes, or and Sweet Potato & Avocado “sashimi” – a seemingly pretentious name for simple vegetables.
Zakaim, Tel Aviv is definitely a grand adventure into veganism, without the bizarre dishes that might frighten non-vegans (with faux cheese or other “dairy” dishes, soy-meat that tastes like meat, that’s a bit weird.) While their Almond based “Cheesecake that will make you dream of it at night” (that’s the direct translation, I’m not making that up) might not make New Yorkers revel in their prized dessert, it manages to grow on you with its delicious peach and scrumptious cobbler topping.
For the health minded and the curious Zakaim delivers on that promise – however, understand that for vegan food, desserts that lack the full richness of cream, milk and eggs, or mains that do not have expensive ingredients like fine cheese or choice meats, dishes at Zakaim are decidedly expensive. Regardless, Tel Avivians and tourists have not shied away from this top Tel Aviv vegan restaurant by the very fact that Zakaim creates simple, delicious, full flavoured and satisfying food.
For the adventurous Zakaim awaits.
Dishes at Zakaim
- Spicy Lemonade 14NIS
- Avocado & Sweet Potato Sashimi 45NIS
- Jerusalem Style MIxed Mushroom 64NIS
- Lido Salad 44NIS
- Almond "Cheesecake that you will dream about at night" 42NIS
Zakaim Restaurant Rating
Zakaim, Tel Aviv
Zakaim, Tel Aviv will defy your expectations of what a vegan restaurant is, can be, and should be. And that can both be a good and bad thing to contend with. Zakaim Restaurant is the creation of the Zakaim siblings (two sisters and their chef brother Harel Zakaim). In the two years since they opened (early 2013) they have garnered a reputation for diners who indulge in inventive, delicious, yet expensive vegan cuisine. More incredibly, they have managed to cross over into the mainstream of Tel Aviv restaurants, that is to say Zakaim is not just for vegans and vegetarians but for all curious and adventurous gourmands.
“Picture yourself in a boat on a river/With tangerine trees and marmalade skies…” The Beatles song play softly in the restaurant, along with other 60’s favourites. It’s undoubtedly intentional; the music a clear backdrop to the Chef Harel’s free spirit. It is no wonder that upon entering the Tel Aviv restaurant you immediately get the sense you are dining at a friend’s home.
Everything from the decor to much of the food is stripped down and unpretentious. The Jersualem Style Mixed Mushrooms is presented as is: a mess of whole green onions, whole sauteed and scorched portobello, button, and field mushrooms, with a slab of artichoke puree (or potato, depending on the season). While the puree came luke warm, over all the dish was full of flavour brought on by a salting process of drawing out the juices from the mushrooms. The meal was really just a mash of onions and mushroom, but one I could easily duplicate with delicious results at home.
The Avocado and Sweet Potato “Sashimi” is a gorgeous blend of distinct flavours and offers a great texture. The onion provides a contrasting sharpness and crunch, while the use of a whole lemon, kosher salt, course black pepper and green chili accentuate the dish without overshadowing the subtleties of the avocado and sweet potato.
The Lido salad was a pleasant surprise, and strongly recommended. The dish combines kholorabi, watermelon and candied cashews in a remarkably filling dish that is both tart and sweet, soft and crunchy and very satisfying. Zakaim’s website has a photo of their winter variety that substitutes the watermelon for strawberries, which I can only imagine is a fair substitution. But in all earnestness consider the watermelon – the kholorabi and the watermelon naturally compliment each other each offering the right amount of crunch/sourness vegetable to the soft/sweet fruit.
For dessert the chef recommended the “Cheese cake that you will probably dream about at night.” The almond based dessert combined peaches which made it sweet and delectable. The crumble on top was wonderful. The dish does match your expectations at first of what vegan dessert but grows on you by the end. It’s a great dessert but like all the dishes at Zakaim they just seem pricier than what you would expect. You probably won’t dream about this dessert later at night – maybe for the lactose intolerant that is a good thing, but for a sweet ending it seems missing the richness that is dairy. Delicious rich dairy. (My apologies to vegans.)
Vegan Restaurants in Tel Aviv
Zakaim positions itself as a place that offers expensive gourmet vegan dishes without all the frills of fine-dining. But for Chef Harel it is a labour of love. He has himself become vegan about a year before starting Zakaim. Sitting by the open kitchen I asked him what he thought about the growing vegan movement in Israel. He shied away from aggressive Gary Yourofsky type rhetoric. He believe the food will speak for itself. At that moment one of his cooks asks Harel what to do with the excess kholorabi juice?
“Drink it,” he tells his young employee. “Kholorabi milk is amazing,” he repeats to me and and his staff with a smile on his face.
He is right about that. The Lido salad was outstanding – fully refreshing, and completely satisfying I did feel better about myself after eating it this food. It was worth venturing off to the corner of 98 Allenby to Zakaim.