Our family just returned from a weeklong trip in Israel, where we began our adventure with three days in Tel Aviv. We had heard that Tel Aviv is young, vibrant, energetic, with a terrific food and art scene, and this in fact was true! It reminded me a bit of Venice Beach California.
We took an overnight flight on El Al from JFK. El Al is well known for their thorough security screening, so we arrived early in anticipation. We were questioned upon check -in, and then pointed in the direction of the King David Club.
The lounge itself is a bit worn, but served the purpose of allowing us to charge our phones and have a small snack prior to boarding.
We were called to board shortly before take-off, and settled in to our seats alongside the window. The brand new 787 Dreamliner was immaculate, and the attendants were welcoming. The seat converted to a lie flat bed, and came complete with a pillow and comforter.
There was no bedding to spread over the seat, which always makes me a little queasy, but it was comfortable nonetheless. I fell asleep almost immediately, and woke to the sounds of the breakfast service. While it felt like breakfast to us, it was actually nearing 5 pm local time when we landed
We were met off the plane by a VIP greeting service which made the customs experience quick and pleasant. Within 30 minutes we had our bags and were in a car on the way to our hotel, The Norman. The Norman is the only luxury Boutique Hotel in Tel Aviv, and we had heard great things about it.
The regular rooms are quite small, so we had booked a suite (the suites are located in an adjacent building on the same property). Check in was a breeze, The Norman seems to hire only bubbly and attractive staff who were eager to assist. We were led to our room across a small courtyard, with our luggage following close behind.
Outside our our suite (#3) which was located on the ground level there was a common area which was never put in to use during our stay.
The layout in our room consisted of a living area complete with a coffee bar and well stocked mini bar. The coffee was complimentary, but the snacks and other drinks were not.
The Israeli wine and delicious welcome chocolates were a nice touch.
The bedroom was plain, but comfortable; and the sheets were really cozy.
The bathroom had plenty of towels, and bespoke toiletries. Everything was just right, aside from a small problem with the heat (we needed some help with the controls).
After we settled in we headed right upstairs to the rooftop bar for a drink.
The Hotel has two different restaurants, both destinations in their own right. Dinings is a Japanese inspired restaurant on the roof, and Alena is a Mediterranean-European fine dining spot that has just been named Israel’s Restaurant of the Year by Gault & Millau .
We were traveling with a large group so every meal was a festive event. Our first night was no exception. The view from the rooftop Bar was beautiful, and the weather was perfect. The staff complained it was cold and wintery (!!) but the temperature hovered around 70 degrees.
Our reservation for dinner was at 8:30, so we transitioned from drinking to eating quickly. We had a table for 14, and everyone had just flown in from all corners of the world, and they were hungry. The food in Tel Aviv is celebrated the world over, and rightly so. The quality of the ingredients is incomparable.
Looking back I think this was one of the best meals of the trip. The menu choices were simple, but the execution was perfection. My first course was beautiful, and delectable. A raw zucchini salad with yogurt, feta and mint.
I followed the zucchini with roasted cauliflower with a zucchini puree and local Ha’Mieiri cheese. Honestly, I could eat this every day and be happy.
This was a perfect welcome to Tel Aviv. We went back to our room, bellies full, and fell right to sleep.
The next morning was beautiful, and we all gathered outside for a spectacular breakfast. The hotel includes a Buffet, and the choices were just as compelling as what we previewed at dinner. The staff handled the now 16 of us with grace and patience. We had many special orders and requests, and they provided them with unfailing cheer.
The food was presented beautifully, and we had to be warned not to overindulge as a feast was waiting for us at lunch time.
The bread pudding is a dessert option for dinner, but we had a second chance to sample it at breakfast.
People literally fought over the Banana French Toast , with the edges being in highest demand (there is a hot meal menu in addition to the buffet choices).
Shakshouka was another popular item. It was excellent.
My plate was heavy on the cheese and Labneh with Za’atar, outstanding!
For the morning activity some of us spent some time touring Tel Aviv ‘s vibrant art scene, including trips to the renowned Gordon Gallery
There is also a treasure trove of street art to admire everywhere you turn.
The other half of our group spent the morning at The Squadron, where they were able to fly F-16 Fighter jets via a simulator. That was a huge hit. Needless to say, whether gallery hopping or flying fighter jets, we all worked up a hearty appetite.
Our group reconvened at Chef Eyal Shani’s highly acclaimed North Abraxas where we were led upstairs to a private room that accommodated our large group.
The tables were set as we walked in, and it was as though we entered a still life. The food itself was the art decorating the tables, and it was beautiful.
Much of the food was being prepared right before us by David, the chef who was very enthusiastic and engaging.
There was something for everyone, whether meat, fish or vegetables, and it was all excellent.
The highlight though was when David actually painted a picture using the desserts as his medium. It was a masterpiece!
We admired it for a moment, and then dug right in. The after picture looks a lot like a Jackson Pollack!
North Abraxass was fun and absolutely delicious. We were quickly getting spoiled by all the amazing food. Our plan for the afternoon was a walk through Jaffa, the southern and oldest part of Tel-Aviv. We wandered through the ancient streets, and visited the flea market.
As night began to fall we watched as the vibe began to change and the nightlife started to get going. Our group though was heading back to the Norman to get ready for dinner. It was hard to imagine eating after our lunch at North Abraxass, but we would do our best.
We loaded in to our bus and headed to Chef Haim Cohen’s Yaffo Tel Aviv, located in the very modern downtown area.
The space is large, yet inviting; and the evening we were there it was packed with happy diners.
Many of the dishes come out of the Taboon oven, prominently displayed in the open kitchen.
We were placed at a long table against the window, and were presented with a set menu. Everything looked enticing.
First out of the oven was piping hot bread from the Taboon. It was devoured immediately.
The Greek Lamb Gyro’s were also a hit.
The Seafood Rice was my selection, and it was excellent. Truth be told, we were still all a little full from lunch, but we did a good job.
If the short time we spent in Tel Aviv was any indication, I would love to return for a more extended visit in the future. As we headed out towards Jerusalem we drove by the beach, where I wouldn’t mind parking myself. The vibe in the city is young, hip and alive; and the food scene is fabulous.