"Shanti!" the man said. He must have been referring to Kedem Restaurant in the Yemenite Quarter of Tel Aviv.
Another country" is how I would describe the Yemenite Quarter. This character-rich neighborhood in old Tel Aviv, not far from the Carmel Market, is a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets, ramshackle buildings, and potted plants sprouting rich colored flowers against all odds. Parking spaces are almost non-existent and maneuvering the streets you are guaranteed to be stuck behind a truck or large vehicle. But the local color and the flavors compensate for any inconvenience.
Seems as though the street level of every building on the block houses a ground floor cafe or restaurant. Eateries are cozy but the seating spills out into the street, creating a very charming and quiet dining atmosphere, far from the madding crowd.
Our Visit to Kedem Restaurant
Kedem Restaurant owner and veteran restaurateur Oren Sabag will welcome you with open arms. While many restaurateurs have forgotten that they are in the hospitality industry, Oren could write the book. Oren loves people, and people respond in kind. Folks drop by just to say hi, and people driving through will stop their cars for a wave. Oren greets all of his guests and no matter how much or how little you order, you will be made to feel welcome.
On the beautiful night that we visited Kedem, we took seats at the outdoor tables under an awning. The restaurant filled gradually with a United Nations mix of customers. A great number of tourists find their way to the Yemenite Quarter, along with local people from the neighborhood, and folks like us, who live in a nice western Israeli town that never see the way the other half live. The name of the restaurant implies just this - Kedem, as it once was. The restaurant suggests a simpler life, no frills, quiet and wholesome as things once were.
The menu is a mix of Eastern cultures. There are some signature Yemenite dishes, some from the Moroccan tradition, and my companion was sure that the meat soup was exactly the recipe that his Hungarian mother used to make, but without the paprika. There is a mix of vegetarian and meat dishes, and nobody leaves hungry.
The calling card of the cuisine is the slow-cooked stews. Oren puts them up to cook in the morning so that they are ready for the first lunch crowd.
Soprito is a stew of meat or chicken, potatoes, reminiscent of our cholent, that you can smell cooking around the block. Add to this the Kedem Oriental spicing for a unique slow-cooked stew that you won't forget.
The Yemenite meat soup is another slow cooked main dish. Other main dishes are the homemade meatballs in tomato sauce, and the chicken schnitzel for the more conventional diner. Vegan main dishes are available too, including stuffed vegetables or a main course combo of four vegan side dishes.
There is a grill section of the menu, which we did not get to try, that includes pargit (chicken steak), or skewers of grilled pullet, shishkebab and liver.
We started with Lachuch, Yemenite flat bread, served with several dips. A few standard pitot accompany the Yemenite Lachuch in case it is not to your taste. Not to worry, it was a nice change from the standard breads.
We had two starters, the green salad and the special humus with chard (a leafy green in the spinach family), fresh mushrooms, garlic and a poached egg. The green salad is one of the Kedem signature dishes. This generous salad, more than enough for two, contains every vegetable that you can think of, so finely chopped that they cannot be identified. The salad is topped off with chick peas and a delicious dressing.
The warm humus was lovely on the Lachluch, with the garlic, mushrooms and chard. The humus is served with a poached egg, but we asked to have it without. All the hummus dishes are based on Kedems recipe which uses lemon, garlic sauce, paprika, cumin, olive oil and love.
My companion could not resist the meat soup, which was like a goulash with a Yemenite touch. There were chunks of slow cooked beef and potatoes in a brown broth. The waiter recommended sopping up the broth with the pita, which turned out to be a very good idea.
We had this with the house wine, Emek Ayala red.
What do Yemenites eat for dessert? We asked.
Unlike all the other foods at Kedem, the wedge of rich chocolate cake
covered with almonds was not made in house, It is also not from the Oriental kitchen. But with delicious cake like this, who cares where it comes from. This cake with Turkish coffee with cardomon, that left a thick layer of grounds at the bottom of the glass, topped off the Eastern experience.
The prices at Kedem will keep you smiling all the way home. Two people can enjoy a full meal for under 200 shekels.
From the menu: