My favorite restaurant is a small, unpretentious seafood place in Tel Aviv. There's not much in the way of decor, no fancy preparations, but it's a place where I know I will eat well, be treated well, and leave full and happy for around $25.And the waitress (god bless those Israelis) is a dead ringer for Angelina Jolie's more natural looking, younger sister. She is so good looking, it is a bit difficult to speak to her. Despite this, the place is comfortable, and I am able to not feel too self-conscious, eating alone.Work has called me to this corner of the world several times in the last few years, and when in town, I have come to think of this place as my local — often going more than once a week during my stay.
The menu is small and simple — several types of fresh local (the Mediterranean is literally a block away) fish, either broiled or fried; some calamari and shellfish — and I order the same thing nearly every time: a large Gold Star beer, and sea bream/dorade or St. Peter's fish. While the fish is being prepped and cooked, Angelina Jolie's more natural looking, younger sister brings nearly a dozen diamond-shaped plates of the day's mezze offerings: fresh pita, hummus, baba ganoush, avocado salad, stewed beets, julienned carrots with scallion and cilantro, roasted peppers in oil and garlic, potato salad, and on.
I could eat just the pita and mezzes and be full, but the fish is delicious, and so damn virtuous — whole, flayed in half, with the backbone pulled, and perfectly broiled with just a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper, with a wedge of lemon.
It's a preparation I've since done at home. It's not difficult, and the results are great. But the mezzes satisfy my lust for many different tastes in one meal, and I miss them.
And I miss, too, the feeling of being in a foreign land, hearing a language that is at once familiar and incomprehensible. And certainly, this fact plays into why this place is my favorite restaurant.
So I await a next work trip that might not come, and pine for my week or two of quiet solitude in the warm salt air, away from home; for the feeling, one often gets while traveling, of excitement that stems from being in a world, a movie, a reality different from one's own, and yet still feels just right.