Being a Tel Aviv transplant is never easy. As a food-lover and full-out gourmet, I struggle each week to select my culinary institution of choice in a sea of genius restaurants. Sauntering through Tel Aviv’s eclectic Nachalat Binyamin Street, teeming with Bauhaus and contemporary architecture marvels, I stumbled upon a minimalist-yet-lively establishment packed with beautiful 30-somethings who appeared to be having the meal of their lives. “We have come to the right place,” I whispered to my culinary companion before opening the doors to Chef Meir Adoni’s eclectic and uplifting Mizlala restaurant. A quick meeting “backstage” with Mr. Adoni prior to the ‘show’, I immediately sensed the chef’s unwavering determination to evolve both as an artist and restaurateur, and ultimately as an individual who has redefined what it means to dine at a high-end establishment.
“I love to create in Tel Aviv, a young and colorful city, and vibrant around the clock,” said Adoni in his modest, yet confident demeanor. Chef Adoni’s passion for Tel Aviv runs rampant through every dish and culinary conception served at Mizlala. The cleanly shaved 40-something-year-old toque first made waves in the Tel Aviv culinary scene in 2002 with the opening of his restaurant, Catit – and his newest gourmet mainstay, Mizlala, has emerged as a city staple with simple, understated décor and innovative cuisine, which is coveted by locals and travelers alike. “Two of my restaurants “Catit” and “Mizlala” are placed side by side in the heart of city and the changing scenery of people going by charms me every day. I can even say that many times, this urban landscape has its own DNA and it even influences my culinary art, as do many other things. Lately, I have started thinking about opening a restaurant in New York. This thought excites and thrills me”.
Inside Mizlala, a myriad of savvy, elegantly dressed diners gathered around the vibrant bar and understated dining area with a relaxed-yet-upbeat demeanor and seemingly endless, colorful plates scattered about. The menu at Mizlala is influenced by the cuisine of Morocco, the birthplace of Mr. Adoni’s mother, and from Iraqi Jewish and Palestinian traditions, and evokes the small plate, sharing approach with that has taken Tel Aviv’s culinary scene by storm over the past few years. With Mizlala well-positioned equidistant from Tel Aviv’s colorful outdoor food markets, Carmel and Levinsky, the quality of ingredients mixed with innovative takes on familiar North African and Middle Eastern cuisine proved to be unlike most establishment in the city. “I let myself go culinary wild in the Mizlala restaurant,” says Chef Adoni. “I am so untamed in the Mizlala, not scared to be freestyle, bold or impudent in part of my creations here. It is a passionate restaurant with an atmosphere of sensual enthusiasm in the air as in the plates.” Upon being seated, a generous serving of Mizlala’s Gluhwein (“glow-wine,” named for the hot irons once used in the mulling process), blissfully trickled down my throat, setting the mood for an all-in-one dining and nightlife experience. The first course included two dishes relevant to the eastern Mediterranean region: an Israeli-rustic inspired dish of Artichoke, Romaine lettuce hearts, Parmigiano, Red Onions, Pickled egg & Caesar aioli and Palestinian tartar, Chopped rump steak, Tehini, Pine nuts, Yogurt & Cumin, setting the stage for what later proved to be the meal of a lifetime. Moving onto the second act, my dining companion and I indulged in a dish of Roasted sweet potato & Chestnuts ravioli, Jerusalem artichoke paste, White almonds, shinoki mushroom, Parmesan & Poticini sauce; and Charcoaled milk-fed lamb souvlaki, Tomatoes, Grilled vegetables, Coriander, Mujaddra, Eggplant & Tahini – taking us back to familiar Mediterranean culinary styles of Greece and Lebanon. Chef Adoni’s genius ability to blend cross-continental culinary traditions was apparent throughout our third course: Thai “hraime” curry sauce, Tomatoes, Southern aubergine, Spinach, Mullet/ Mussels & crabs – an Asian-inspired interpretation of the traditional Moroccan spicy fish dish – of which we ordered a second because it was simply unparallel to any thing I have ever eaten in the city. And for desert, we dove into a grand finale ofPuff pastry, lime crème, seasonal strawberries, mandarin-yuzu jelly, candied ginger, grapefruit sorbet.
Wandering back into the heat of Tel Aviv’s bustling youth-laden streets, I reminisced over Chef Adoni’s ability to compose such a delectable and lively culinary experience, a rarity amongst most high-end dining establishments. “I question how any bar or nightclub could follow a meal like that,” mentioned my dining partner, as we strolled back up Rothschild Boulevard already plotting our next visit to Mizlala.
Photo: מאת ענת סקילי – ענת סקילי, שימוש חופשי, wikipedia.org