Yassou Tel Aviv looks over the Mediterranean as it features a fusion of Mediterranean cuisines from Israel, Greece and Morocco. Although most dishes will be familiar to Israeli diners, there is a Greek motif that dominates the decor and the menu.
Entering it’s third year with it’s founding Chef Tal Holtzer, this “Mediterranean Gastropub” has attracted a loyal band of followers: some who come for the great food, others who come for a comfortable and fun night out for drinks and those who come for a bit of both.
“Old School” Israeli/Hebrew music sets the scene for revelry as shots of Ouzo seem to reach every table for the traditional Greek toast of Yassou which is a salutation reserved for friends and family. All the dishes seemed well seasoned yet showed restraint not outshining the starring protein and produce of each plate.
There is a wide choice of selections to suit any diner’s preferences whether they be carnivores seeking out beef, lamb or chicken, fresh catch from the Mediterranean or several vegetarian and vegan selections. One aspect to reinforce that this restaurant is more Greek/Mediterranean than Israeli is that the restaurant isn’t kosher including calamari and shrimp dishes yet the staff is sensitive to kosher diners and will make dishes to order to satisfy what suits a guest so some kosher guests might pick from their wide range of veggie dishes although some might pass on any restaurant without a kosher certification.
Those who dine here have plenty of dishes to fall in love with and the portions are generous so ideal for sharing.
Fresh out of an oven is a toasty loaf of “freta” bread. Bread, olive oil and wine are often cited as the “trinity of Mediterranean cuisine” so it’s an ideal way to start a meal here. For NIS 28, it’s served with a tomato puree sauce and an olive tapenade though I found it paired well with a serving of pan fried tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella.
A portion of stuffed grape leaves with zucchini fingers in tempura batter with yogurt sauce accentuated the freshness of ingredients being used as the grape leaves were crisp and more tasty than the oil drenched leaves one so often gets from a can and overall the plate had classic regional flavors with a nice contrast of textures.
Typically call a dish carpaccio and you got me sold. Rarely, do I find thinly sliced raw delights like these wanting and Yassou’s tuna carpaccio with soy with greens and radishes melted in the mouth. I look forward to trying their sirloin carpaccio on a future occasion.
With their branding siding on Greek, the Greek Salad was a must try and though it differed from my expectations I still found it immensely satisfying. The vegetables and feta cheese were chopped in large chunks that were bite size but helped keep the salad crisp and not soggy and the dressing was delicate enough not to overpower the fresh greens,peppers,onions and tomatoes that tasted like they were picked that day.
Of course, there’s heartier fare. That evening’s special’s included minced lamb (which was called the house shwarama), local spices, silan (date honey) on a lightly toasted thin crust pita. It was sweet and savory and a good match for the Blue Nun Gewurztraminer (Germany) on the menu.
Kebabs are a house specialty and in Israel as in Greece, kebabs aren’t skewered chunks of meat (as in the US) but are small ground meat patties of either lamb or beef. These were tender and juicy, well seasoned and served with an eggplant mousse with notes of sumac berries, a filling and flavorful choice of local cuisine with the stamp of Chef Holtzer offered at a reasonable NIS 88.
Fresh fish will be a natural choice for many enjoying a sunset over the sea and the Sea Bass filet with a cream sauce, stuffed grape leaves and roasted tomatoes is a good display of Chef Holtzer’s delicate touch that still delivers lots of flavor. The portion was generous and I for one appreciated that it was served as a filet and not the local custom of serving a fish from head to tail. At NIS 108, the price still seemed reasonable as it outshined some more expensive fish fare I’ve sampled at some other Tel Aviv seaside settings.
There was a choice of desserts but I found a plate of wild berries (with strawberries in season) served on crumbly and sweet pastry to be most apt as its fresh fruit was a perfect ending to remind me of all the fresh and expressive flavors that proceeded.
For beverages, Ouzo takes center stage here and shots seemed to appear out of nowhere and be prevalent among diners and drinkers alike and Yassou Tel Aviv offers a choice of three Anise flavored Ouzo’s to chose from. Anise/Licorice flavored liquor is a Mediterranean staple Arak being the Israeli/Lebanese,/Syrian version, Patise from France, Ojen from Spain, Kasra from Libya or Sambuca from Italy) and Yassou offers Ouzo laced cocktails including a “Greek Collins”.
Several Israeli wines make the wine list (although some more Greek and Mediterranean wines and beers would be welcome to accentuate the Mediterranean motif).
2011 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc (NIS 38 glass/148 bottle),2010 Tzora Judean Hills (48/195) and 1010 Chateau Golan Merlot (240 bottle) are all food friendly Israeli wines that match with many of the dishes and are priced reasonably. Bringing your own wine only comes with a NIS 50 corkage fee if you want to being a bottle not on their list.
Sunday nights Yassou Tel Aviv features live music and I look forward returning on some future Sunday to see what those evenings are like and try a few of the dishes that caught my eye that my endurance prohibited me from trying on my first and I hope not my last visit.
Address: 105 HaYarkon, Tel Aviv on ground floor in the back of Prima Hotel facing the sea on the corner of Frischman
Telephone: (03) 603-1719
Open 7PM to Midnight (or as in Israel as they say until the last customer)