Tel Aviv Restaurant With Local Ingredients, Global Influences


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Roasted kholrabi in tzfat cheese, sesame seeds and thyme.

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Sarit Goffen

Everything served at Dok, from the rosé wine to the ice cream, is made from ingredients grown in Israel. O.K., almost everything: Sugar and wheat flour are exceptions. But Asaf Doktor, the chef who owns the Tel Aviv restaurant with his brother, Yotam, is working on it.

Call the restaurant moshav (Israeli cooperative farm) to table.

Take its gin and tonic, for example. The “tonic” is a caramel syrup that Asaf makes using the juice of bitter oranges that grow a few blocks from the restaurant. When combined with gin from Jullius Distillery in Galilee, it evokes the assertive astringency of quinine, but is rounder and richer.

The micro-restaurant, which opened in May 2015, has a counter that seats eight, plus two little tables. Sidewalk seating doubles the capacity. There’s no kitchen, just chefs assembling dishes in the open, sushi-bar style. The place is so tiny that when I asked about the bathroom, I was sent outside. “It’s a small place,” Mr. Doktor said, shrugging.

Though the ingredients are almost all local, the food reflects Israel’s polyglot culture, with influences from across the Jewish diaspora. The phenomenal mackerel, quick-cured in salt and sugar, slicked in olive oil and served simply with boiled potatoes, sour cream, grated horseradish and chopped parsley, is pure Russian. Beef tartare takes its cues from Lebanese raw kibbe, with quenelles of minced raw beef and freekeh, dotted with herbs, plenty of lemon zest and fruity harissa, sitting atop slices of pickled turnip. Each nugget disperses on contact with your tongue, like the most skillfully formed nigiri.

Some expected ingredients are missing, like tahini, the sesame paste that is ubiquitous in Israel, but is usually made from Ethiopian seeds. “It’s very cliché to use tahini in Israeli cuisine,” Mr. Doktor said.

Sesame ice cream does appear, though, as a cool foil to the warm toffee medjool date cake. Mr. Doktor uses sesame seeds that are “baladi,” an Arab word that translates, more or less, to “heirloom.” In fact, most of the produce served at Dok is from Arab farmers in Israel.

The restrictions the chef imposes might sound like a gimmick, but in his hands, it is an organizing principle. “That’s what’s fun about it,” he said. “I’m not limited in what I do, only in what I use.”

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