Aug 27 2009
The international culinary standard is constantly on the rise, and for quite some time a diverse menu or millions of dollars spent on design have not been enough to succeed in Tel Aviv’s uncompromising “Restaurant Championship” – that’s why God created takeaway. What we’re looking for today has much more to do with a place’s personality and soul; to lure us out of the house they have to understand that food is a form of entertainment that includes quality dishes, excellent service, good prices and most importantly an atmosphere that encourages a hearty appetite and libido. After all, food is the most sensuous thing there is.
The bar culture’s sex appeal has trickled over to the culinary field, and the successful combination of alcohol and food is what brings us back to the same places. Many Tel Aviv restaurants are adorned with the “restaurant-bar” title, but few are able to provide the requisite substance. This is the reason why places like Barbunya Bar and Nanutchka have become popular, as they provide the ultimate package in one place.
The Charcuterie in Jaffa is a restaurant that successfully combines all of these elements and has a cherry on top – an international vibe and the authenticity of the flea market. The genius of such places abroad is that they aren’t expensive, making them a regular destination on various days and at different hours. In Israel, as usual, we think that we’re worth more, so whenever a product like this is offered it is usually destroyed with the wrong prices or dishes that do not suit the concept.
This is not the case at Charcuterie. The trip to the restaurant begins with an evening excursion to the flea market, where you approach a restaurant like the ones in Italian vacation films – lights blinking and tables in the open air, alongside a large bar. For those who prefer sitting at the bar in the air conditioning, there is also a large, welcoming bar inside. The enchantment continues to take over your senses when you go up to the top floor and the smell of smoked sausages wafts up, taunting your appetite. As soon as you sit down you know you’ve come to a place that loves food, with smiling, generous waiters who know what they’re talking about and enjoy helping with the light menu that focuses on meats and sausages handmade by the chef, as well as Mediterranean-European style seafood and fish.
I’ll admit that when I see a dish like “Sausage Plate” on the menu, I’m mesmerized and on most of my visits to the restaurants that dish managed to find its way to my table, though every time I’ve gotten something completely different. I must note that the best days were in the fall, when there were slices of pickled sirloin, with robust flavors and textures. Of my many samplings from others’ plates (Yes, J, it’s fun to dine with me…) I discovered that the seafood is delightful and that the shrimp in citrus and aniseed sauce (why always aniseed?! Luckily I couldn’t taste it) is an excellent dish for the seafarers among us.
But food isn’t the main topic of conversation, because like I said, the meal is served in an atmosphere that you just can’t buy, an atmosphere that puts a mischievous smile on your face, as you do vodka shots at the table and the music gets progressively louder, freeing you from thoughts of “where will we go later?” because it will continue here, in the magic of this little European place in the Jaffa flea market, where the wine makes you happy and the alcohol hits you hard. Indeed, they have found the winning formula. May there be more like them.
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