BY: ALEXIS MILLER
The latest trends around the world and more specifically in the Land of (Almond) Milk and (Date) Honey are veganism and gluten-free eating. Veganism is abstaining from the use of animal products, including dairy and eggs and other animal-related foods. Many people think that veganism is for the hippy, granola types of people, but in Israel this way of life may be more than just a trend. The Israeli vegan focus centered around a viral video that somehow made its way to many Israeli's Facebook feed, and many find that their support for animal rights and for the health benefits are reason enough to give up their meat-eating ways. Encouraged by a few famous Israelis, like Miki Haimovich that inspired Meatless Mondays, many local restaurants are now serving more vegan-friendly options on the menu and more cafes, bakeries and restaurants are opening as entirely vegan.
The other wave sweeping through town is that many Israelis are going gluten-free, whether it is to help their gastro-intestinal issues or because sans gluten makes them feel better. Whatever the reasoning may be, some people swear by a gluten-free diet. Gluten is found in grains, so a gluten-free diet consists of no flour, bread, beer, certain dressings, and couscous, among many other foods. The only medically accepted reason for a gluten-free diet is for celiac disease. Slowly, Tel Aviv restaurants are providing accommodations for those gluten-free or gluten intolerant as well.
While researching vegan and gluten-free restaurants in Tel Aviv, I came across Mezze, a unique vegetarian AND gluten-free restaurant in the heart of Tel Aviv. Although they are not fully vegan, many of their dishes are vegan-friendly and anything on the menu can be adapted. When I first stepped foot in Mezze, I was greeted by the minimalist and modest look of the restaurant. Simple tables and chairs lined the restaurant, while others covered the outside. Inbal and I sat down with the owner, Efrat Rabinovich, to find out about how Mezze got started.
Efrat and her husband, chef Gal Barzilay, started Mezze ten years ago. Efrat has celiac disease and her (Iraqi) husband is vegetarian, so they wanted to open up a restaurant that would accommodate many types of dietary restrictions without losing anything in the quality and flavor of the dining experience. Their kitchen is one of the only ones in Tel Aviv that is completely gluten-free. Efrat said that ten years ago it was not cool to open up a vegetarian place and that people would run away from it! Now, it could not be more successful. In the past few years, Efrat and Gal decided to make their restaurant less of a café and more of a sophisticated restaurant and is particularly focused on high quality food and presentation. Everything is minimalistic and pure from the ingredients used to the appearance of the dishes.
Inbal and I started our meal off with a lemon verbena iced tea, which was out of this world. There was no sugar added, and the tea was honestly the best iced tea I have ever tasted. Next came the small plates. The first dish was their famous “tahini trio” which consisted of a beetroot, a secret herbed version, and healthy tahini served with organic spelt pita triangles. We also sampled the mushroom, walnut and cashew pate. Next came a tomato salad and then roasted okra. Not only was the food outstanding, but it was remarkable learning about the history of Mezze. It is a neighborhood restaurant kind of off the beaten path, so unless given a recommendation, a tourist probably would not find it.
Mezze, Ahad Ha'am 51, Tel Aviv
Sun- Thur: 08:00-24:00 Friday: 08:00-17:30 Sat: Closed