If I called Casserole a Middle Eastern restaurant, you would think it was a steakiya, but there are no grilled meats and chips/fries on the menu. Casserole is more accurately called an Ethnic Sfaradi restaurant, with a selection of dishes from Libya, Morocco and Iraq (which they call Tripolitai, from Tripoli) plus some native Israeli dishes.
Casserole is located in the venerable and charming Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv, a few blocks from the Shalom Tower. The first kiosk in Tel Aviv is still standing next door, and the old Eden movie theatre is across the street. The neighborhood is a mix of deteriorating houses and beautifully refurbished gentrified buildings. There is some street parking and several parking lots in the area.
There is seating on two levels inside the restaurant but the preferred seating is outside on the sidewalk, if you can get it. Indoors is a bit squishy, which adds to the charm of the restaurant.
The moderately priced menu has a unique selection of first courses, and then a selection of kube (semolina balls stuffed with meat) dishes, couscous dishes or soups. Casserole offers several vegetarian dishes, including a vegetarian Moroccan couscous and a vegetarian vegetable soup. Several of the starters are also suitable for vegetarians. My companion was disappointed to find that the vegetarian dishes were no longer available when we got to the restaurant at 9pm. Perhaps it would be wise to reserve vegegarian, if this is your preference, in advance.
For a starter, I went for the kukle, the most exotic dish on the menu and the house recommendation. This is described on the menu as semolina balls with sheep fat. The description did not arouse my appetite, but I went with it because I love lamb. The small dish had two balls of semolina about the size of gefilte fish balls in a green chard (mangold in Hebrew) sauce with small white lima beans. The semolina balls had a strong lamb flavor while the sauce had a mint flavor. I would recommend this dish.
Other starters include mafrum (potato stuffed with chopped meat), a humus and broad bean (ful) combination, chopped liver, chopped Israeli salad and green salad. The Humus is a generous dish of whole chick peas and broad beans. I don't know another restaurant with the nerve to serve a whole boiled artchoke without any sauce. The artichoke was not overcooked, served attractively like an open flower, with just half lemon on the side.
I chose the Moroccan chicken stew couscous for my main course, again on the recommendation of the house. This was a bed of couscous topped by a thick stew with chick peas, coriander and three chicken drumsticks. Talk about comfort food! I finished every drop.
Everyone at Carossel gets the same dessert: slices of a tastey but somewhat heavy semolina cake topped with almond slices, with the house tea. The cake was nice but the tea was special – dark, thick and sweet, with cinnamon. Is that a Sfaradi ethic specialty? I don't know, but is was very nice.