Chiribim. Chiribom. Chiribim-bam bim-bam bim-bam….
Surprise! This restaurant is not named for the Yiddish song. Chiripom, we learned, means “happy apple” and is named for owner Avi Levi's brother who sold apples in an Algerian market. To create buzz for his stall, in jest, he would shoot an apple at passers by who did not acknowledge his stall. Rest assured that you will not be pelted with apples at the restaurant but your visit to Chiripom will be a happy event.
Chiripom is a quaint and charming restaurant on Ahad Haam Street at the corner of Yavneh Street not far from the Tel Aviv Great Synagogue. This is the older part of Tel Aviv which is now the heart of the financial district. The few steps up and the period banister bring you back to the early days of Tel Aviv. The interior is cozy and rustic with painted brick walls, original tiled floors and tables with mismatched chairs. The result is a homey and relaxed venue where you are bound to feel comfortable as yourself. Some would call this shabby chic – I call it lovingly chic.
One of the things that make Chiripom an “in” restaurant is its famous chef, Avi Levi, winner of the reality show Master Chef Israel. Chiripom is Levi's third restaurant, all of which have feature food inspired by traditional Jerusalem, Moroccan and Algerian cuisine.
Whoever thinks that the big city is not friendly has not been to Chiripom. The people who work at this restaurant must undoubtedly pass a friendly test. Waiter Benny is charming and personable. He helped us through the menu with suggestions and advice. Later we spoke to one of the chefs and the restaurant manager, all warm and friendly. I will admit that the charming ambiance and the delicious food make for an excellent dining experience, but the personal service really tops it off. Add all of these to the reasonable cost, and you’ve got a winning dining experience.
Chiripom is a tapas style restaurant. The menu offers a list of small dishes in no particular order, that can be shared between people dining together. The style of food is North African and Algerian, they say, but what do we know? To us it was just tasty food.
We were advised to order four dishes for the two of us. This is what you will need for two people sharing. Some of the dishes are individual sized, while others are large enough to satisfy a hungry person. The dishes seem to vary from flavorful through spicy to hot. If you are sensitive, tell the waiter, and the kitchen will try to keep the sauces Harry-Met-Sally style “on the side.”
For our four tapas dishes we decided on two vegetable dishes, one meat dish and one fish dish. The menu is only in Hebrew and does not give any indication of the size of the dishes, so Benny was essential in helping us choose our meal. For the two vegetable dishes we chose Shuflor and Farsa Balls. The Shuflor is described as small cauliflower florets in harissa sauce. Harissa is a Tunisian spicy sauce, which we asked be served on the side. The dish is small but absolutely delicious. The portion is really just a tasting for two people, served on a small plate. The sauce was placed on the plate toward the edge, not really an ocean away. We both got a bit of the sauce, but as I like spicy food, I dipped my florets in the sauce to pick up more.
The Farsa Balls is another small dish of two or three vegetarian croquettes with what was billed as a hot sauce. Again, we asked for the sauce on the side, and it did come on the side of the same small plate, but the chef could not resist drizzling a bit of it on the croquettes. The sauce was not very spicy, maybe a 6 out of 10, so my dining companion with her Polish palate had no trouble with this dish.
The Sea Bass in Sharmula sauce is coated and fried, and quite reminiscent of the more familiar fish n’chips. Sharmula is an Algerian sauce made with paprika, cumin, garlic, and other good stuff. The sauce is piquant rather than really spicy. True to our practice, we asked for the sauce on the side, and most of it, this time, was served on the side. The fish was tasty, and between the two of us, we happily devoured it all.
The Tfaya lamb is ground lamb served in two crispy toasted pitot. The lamb is flavored with lemon preserves and perhaps a bit of pepper. It was very tasty, and quite a substantial dish. I asked to take half a pita home in order to have enough appetite to enjoy one of the attractive Chiripom desserts.
“Algerian Cigars” was Benny’s choice for dessert, and so it was. Algerian Cigars are a Middle Eastern/North African dish served at the traditional Mimouna (post-Passover) celebration. This is a great way to end the meal. The bottom of a small dish is filled with sweet nougat cream (Zhavin, a Moroccan delicacy) decorated by two crispy cigar shaped pastries with a nut filling.
Everyone is on to Chiribom, and this restaurant with limited indoor seating a small porch with extra tables fills up fast. In the evening it is a popular venue for local residents, so reservations are a good idea.
Parking: There is a a pay parking lot on Ahad Haam next door to the restaurant but when we got there it was full. We parked in a pay lot near the Beit Knesset Hagadol.
From the Chiripom Dinner Tapas Menu:
Algerian cocktail – NIS 29,
Shuflour - Small cauliflower with harisa NIS 21
Farsa balls – with spicy tomato sauce NIS 19
Fish in Sharmula sauce NIS 24
Tefayeh – Lamb in pickled lemon NIS 32,
Algerian cigar dessert NIS 19