I’ve traveled to Israel several times this year and many more times during the past few years which has allowed me to stay at the best boutique hotels in Tel Aviv. More recently, I have become obsessed with staying at the Mendeli Street Hotel, and it has become my go-to hotel when visiting Tel Aviv- a place I look forward to visiting again and again.
While the hotel is welcoming and comfortable, the continuous allure of Mendeli Street Hotel is their restaurant, Mashya, which is one of the best in Tel Aviv and one of my all time favorites (anywhere). On the ground floor of the hotel, a visit to Mashya lets you experience authentic local cuisine that emphasizes freshness and the highest quality ingredients, but in a profoundly unique, and creative way. As you make your way into the restaurant, the air is filled with the spicy aroma of mace, which is the local spice that the restaurant is named for. For a foodie, the menu at Mashya is the holy grail of adventure and the flavors are a gastronomic delight.
“Our inspiration was mace (“mashya” in Hebrew), the winding peel of the nutmeg plant that curls around the nut like flowing lava and that provides an almost-divinely aromatic spark in Moroccan cuisine. Mashya is our interpretation and homage to Tel Aviv: local, historical, intimate, but at the same time modern, hip, and stylish. It’s the flavors of our childhoods, spread across a plate like paint across a canvas.”
Mashya is a restaurant with a focus on design, where the bright, clean look is trimmed with the rough and rugged textures of locally-sourced natural materials, helping it blend with the spirit of the nearby outdoor market. At night, Mashya transforms the ground floor of the Mendeli Street Hotel into a lively, energetic culinary scene filled with a chic and eccentric crowd. If you know you are going to be staying with the hotel, make a reservation with the restaurant immediately or you may not get a table for dinner or drinks.
I typically prefer to sit at the large bar and like to start my evenings with one of Mashya’s house recommended cocktails- the Guayava. Although I typically like to avoid large colorful cocktails that look like they are made for women, the convincing and slightly over friendly bartender insisted that if I like tequila that the Guayava was for me, and I agree with him. The Guayava is served in a tall class and combines El Jimador, Guava Liqueur, Aperol, Agave, and Lemon with a sweet blend of sugar and spices around the rim. The result is an amazingly unique cocktail that has become synonymous with the taste of Tel Aviv for me.
If you eat at the bar, don’t be surprised if you make some new friends and partake in many rounds of shots of your choice with the bartender, which seems to be a local tradition. Since we are in Tel Aviv, I typically go with the selection of the bartender, which seems to normally be Arak, which reminds me of Pastis in France.
Most of the plates aren’t huge at Mashya which makes it convenient to indulge on a variety of dishes without becoming overly stuffed. The plates are served as they are ready in the kitchen, but I typically like to start with a dish that is like a salad, but it should never be called that: arugula, “Labane” cheese, Medjool dates, with pineapple and avocado honey. It is like no other salad-like dish I have tasted before, with the shredded arugula piled on top of flavorful surprises hidden within.
Since we are near the Mediterranean sea it makes sense to at least try some local fish, so I like the light, delicate flavors of the: red tuna sashimi, wheat salad, coriander, with olives and orange. The presentation is unique and artful and the flavor does not disappoint. The nice thing about this dish is that it is light enough to allow you to try a third, but not final dish.
One of the most unlikely items on the menu to be ordered as a main course is also my favorite the: pumpkin “asado,” with honey, a Moroccan paprika glaze, and Crème fraiche. It is presented and served more like an elegant steak, but the flavor has a complexity that will never be found in even the best steak. If I could eat this everyday, I would never eat meat again.
After a ridiculously enjoyable meal at the bar, it is time to retire to the nearby couches, loosen up the pants, and prepare for the final course, desert: pumpkin, malabi, raisins with cardamon & cinnamon, with a pistachios & coriander seed ice cream. Mashya’s take on Banoffee Pie is also just as good and if you don’t want more pumpkin, it is solid second choice.
You can eat at Mashya anytime of the day and while the dinner is beyond amazing, you will never forget the breakfast- probably the best I have ever had at a hotel. If you can, leave your self some time for breakfast before you rush off to a business meeting or to the beach. The Mashya breakfast buffet is in a league of its own- unrivaled by any hotel in the world. You will never see another breakfast buffet like this and you can enhance the experience by ordering off the menu and allowing the chef to work his magic with a morning style menu. You can go more traditional with an omelette mixed with local herbs and veggies or you can try one of the more unique dishes such as Shakshuka Tahini & Arisa which is tomatoes, peppers, Moroccan Arisa, eggs, tahini and coriander. If you want something on the sweet side, try the bread pudding, which is made from croissants, pears, almond, citrus, and comes with brown-butter ice cream and citrus blossom water.
Boutique hotels are typically known for having quality restaurant and bar experiences, but rarely am I more excited to eat at a hotel than stay there. I am counting down the days until my return to Mendeli Street Hotel and Mashya. Until then, I will be running daily 10k’s to work off the calories and prepare for my next meal there.