Zakaim is a gourmet vegan restaurant. You will not find meat, fish, dairy foods, or eggs on the menu. All the dishes are grain and vegetable based, and they are just delicious. The restaurant has a modest decor, open kitchen, and outdoor patio seating in the back. This is a dog-friendly restaurant for both the owners and customers.
We made an unscheduled serendipitous visit to Zakaim to experience gourmet vegan dishes first hand. Arriving just before 6pm we were asked to wait outside till the restaurant opens for dinner. The restaurant squeezed us in at 6, but we had only 2 hours to finish our meal as they were fully booked later in the evening. And they were not kidding. A bit after 7pm the restaurant started filling with groups of friends and families all with reservations confirmed by computer. It is definitely wise to have a reservation.
Let me dispel certain assumptions that you may have about vegan eating. First, there is nothing boring or bland about the foods at Zakaim. In fact the dishes at this restaurant are some of the tastiest and most creative that we have had in any restaurant. If you thought this would be a cheap place to eat, rethink that. The prices at Zakaim are not less than at any quality meat or dairy restaurant. I suppose that the cost of the labor makes up for the savings in meat and dairy materials.The restaurant did have a full staff and a number of chefs in the kitchen.
The Zakaim Menu
The Zakaim menu is one page in Hebrew with an English.version available. My companion and I were at a total loss. Accustomed to conventional meat or dairy restaurants with predictable dishes, we had no idea what to order.
With the waiter's help we chose to start with the lentil and almond pate. My companion and I shared this outstanding dish served with caramelized onion on mini bruschetta of the house bread, topped with a spicy cherry tomato sauce. This amazing pate is also offered on the restaurant take away menu in 1/4 and 1/2 kilo units. Had I noticed it I surely would have taken some of this dish home.
The chips, we were told, are unique as rather than cut they are torn by hand. This I have to try, These delicious but deep-fried hand-made potatoes were served in a paper bag. They are offered as a side dish with the burger meal (see photo below) and other dishes, but we ordered them as a side where they are not included with the main dish. And I am so glad that we did. The quantity is enough for two, with chips left over.
Zakaim's signature dish is the 60-minute Chard (Mangold) boureka, called 60 minutes because it takes an hour to prepare. So it is best to order this first, and then embark on the starters. This dish is a single round pastry made of a thin olive oil dough that is rolled gently, filled with chard and onion. The long strand of pastry is wrapped in a circle and served on a crushed, sharp tomato tray. On the side is a chopped Arab salad, in-house pickled vegetables, a 3-hour matbucha, tahini, and more
As the room started to fill up and the dishes delivered to the tables, we noticed that the two most popular dishes appeared to be the pizza and the vegan burger. This is as close as strictly vegan diners will get to meat hamburgers and cheese pizza. We did not try these dishes at our visit to the restaurant, but from the other tables, these appeared to be winners.
What do you recommend for dessert?
This meal did not require another course, but we were interested in trying a vegan dessert. We considered pie, malabi, and several other options.
But my favorite, said the waitress, is the chocolate/almond truffles.
Va va va voom!
Chocoholics will not be able to get enough of this dessert. These pieces were so rich, they had to be eaten slowly. We were already so stuffed, we chose to take them home. I didn't think they would make it into the house before being devoured, but alas, we had them later that night.
This is one of the best desserts in any restaurant in Tel Aviv. We know.
In addition to the items mentioned above my companion had a beer and one or two other dishes. Our bill came to just about 300 shekels for two people.
Getting There: At the corner of Allenby 98 you will see a very small passageway/street called Simtat Beit Hashoeva. The restaurant is on the left side of this small street.
Parking: Pay parking on Allenby at the corner of Montifiori.
From the menu: pate of lentils, nuts and almonds: NIS 42. 60-Minute Bourekas NIS 119. Burgers NIS 49/69/85. Hand made chips NIS 36.chocolate truffles NIS 39.