7 super places to savor soup this winter: Ethnic edition

This year’s installment of our annual winter feature focusing on warming dishes has an ethnic dimension, as we recommend soups from cuisines from Europe to Asia. As usual, however, we do not stop there: we also highlight other noteworthy dishes in each restaurant.

The entries – which include one that is certified kosher – are all from greater Tel Aviv. Finally, they are not ranked, but rather are listed in alphabetical order.

Ambiance: Fu Asian Kitchen and Sushi Bar is a complex in north Tel Aviv comprising a sit-down restaurant and take away area the size of and abandoned restaurant. There is a bar and small tables indoors, with more tables on the sidewalk in a nicely heated enclosure during the winter. (Tip: Most of the seating outdoors is on hard metal chairs, but you can search out more comfortable ones.)

Soups: Soups at Fu represent four different Asian cuisines; two Japanese, one Thai (Tom Yum) and one Vietnamese (Pho). The two latter come with choices of the protein component: we can recommend the seafood in the pleasantly spicy Tom Yum, as well as the chicken in the (blander) Vietnamese national noodle soup dish.

Overall Menu: The bilingual food menu, which takes up an entire booklet, is similarly pan-Asian and comprises Entrees, Salads, Soups, Buns, Gyoza, Robata, Wok and multiple pages of sushi. The drinks menu includes specialty cocktails, a dedicated section of Japanese sake and alcohol, beer, and a more than adequate international wine list, especially for an Asian oriented restaurant.

Recommended: Squares of crispy butter rice cakes topped with spicy tuna and truffled avocado, Szechuan beef (flank steak strips with portobello and other vegetables in a spicy sauce). And from the separate dessert menu: the Tokyo chocolate trio and the crème brûlée sencha lollipops.

Fu. Not kosher. 302 Dizengoff St.,Tel Aviv. Te; (03) 605-1000.

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(Photo: Buzzy Gordon)

Ambiance: The hallmarks of this continually growing culinary empire are the visual and auditory characteristics of our nearby Mediterranean neighbor, from the distinctive blue and white decor to the lively bouzouki music (occasionally live). Locations now include two tavernas in Tel Aviv and two in the northern suburbs (Herzliya and Kfar Saba), along with several adjacent delis or cafés.

Soups: There are two on the menu, a rotating “soup of the day” and the permanent Fisherman’s soup – which, like the former, is listed in the Small Hot Plates section of the menu, but is actually quite a large portion. It is also satisfyingly filling, as it comes with hearty rustic bread.

Overall Menu: The bilingual food menu is divided into many sections: Bread, Cold Small Plates, Cold Large Dishes, Fava, Hot Small Plates, Hot Large Dishes, Souvlaki/Gyros and Desserts. The drinks menu includes specialty cocktails, plus Greek and domestic alcohol, beers and wines.

Recommended: The Olympus house cocktail, skordalia and tirokafteri (among the cold mezze), the 12 Gods Pastry (among the warm mezze), the fava with veal and lamb gyros, Katarina Salad (among the cold large dishes), the [seafood] saganaki falasinon (among the hot large dishes) and the kaimaki (among the six desserts).

Greco. Not kosher. Uri Tzvi Ginsberg 25, Azorei Hen, Tel Aviv. Tel. 03-741-1022

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Maison Kayser

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Ambiance: This restaurant and bar, modeled in the tradition of a French bistro, recreates the decor of a typical bistro in Paris, which is the headquarters of the global culinary empire established and overseen by master baker Eric Kayser. What is truly remarkable about this eatery is that it is the first Maison Kayser full-fledged bistro in the world, as opposed to the dozens of bakery-cafes (including two in Tel Aviv) that are standard in the chain.

Soups: There is really only one that is defined as such on the menu – classic French onion soup, with floating giant croutons smothered in melted Gruyere cheese. Occasionally, however, an additional soup du jour may be offered at lunchtime. Moreover, a similarly classic dish – bouillabaisse, the famous fish soup/stew of Provence and the French Riviera – is also a star of the menu, even though it is listed not as a starter but as one of the main courses, albeit in the form of a pasta sauce for tortellini.

Overall Menu: The trilingual food menu comprises Starters, Intermediate Courses, Main Courses and Desserts. (Surprisingly, there are very few vegetarian options, and hardly any vegan ones.) The drinks menu comprises both specialty cocktails and – as befits a French establishment – a nicely curated wine list. Critically, a meal at Maison Kayser commences with a [complimentary] basket of delicious house breads, containing one signature baguette, a brioche roll and several slices of crusty dark bread, served with imported French butter.

Recommended: In addition to the indispensable breads, artichoke carpaccio with bottarga (among the starters), calamari and chickpea compote (among the intermediate dishes), slow-cooked lamb (among the main courses), and tarte tatin (caramelized apple pie, among the desserts.

Maison Kayser. Not kosher. 5 Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 504-0567.

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Ambiance: Miazaki Japanese Diner by Chef Yuval Ben Neria’s Taizu Group is a typical Sarona Market fast food eatery in appearance, but the pace in the kitchen is visibly frenetic, given the bustling crowds and lines that this transplant from Shuk Hatzafon often attracts. You place and pay for order at one of the electronic stations, then pick it up at the counter and take it to one of the tables in the cavernous common hall. All foods are delivered to be eaten from and with the disposable take-away containers, chopsticks and plastic cutlery.

Soups: The soups here are all variations of the familiar noodle soup dish ramen, with Miazaki benefiting from the Sarona closure of Chef Israel Aharoni’s Hiro Ramen Bar. Like its Vietnamese counterpart pho (see above), ramen is tantamount to a meal-in-a-bowl, as the broth is chock full of filling wheat noodles, together with vegetables, Japanese-style whole medium-boiled egg, and even a bamboo skewer of [robata] charcoal-grilled chicken. The two permanent versions are Miso Ramen and Tabask Ramen (with tehina), while Mushroom Ramen is an occasional special.

Overall Menu: The electronic menus display illuminated dishes that roughly fall into classifications of ramen, buns, main dishes, sides and children’s portions. There are only a few options in each of these categories, including meal deals that are conveniently bundled together. The only alcohol is two kinds of bottled beer, and there is but one dessert: a pint container of miso ice cream.

Recommended: Crispy chicken and Korean salmon (the latter one of the few non-Japanese dishes, all from Korean cuisine). The ice cream will be appreciated only by fans of miso, which is admittedly an acquired taste.

Miazaki @ Sarona Market. Not kosher. 3 Aluf Kalman Magen St., Tel Aviv. Tel. (077) 938-6244.

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Mr. Marak

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Ambiance: This small storefront eatery – whose alliterative name in Hebrew translates to “Mr. Soup” – is strategically located at the key intersection of Marmorek, Yehudah Halevi, Ibn Gvirol and Karlebach Streets. One is greeted there by a row of gleaming stainless steel kettles from which amiable owner/host Moshe Mizrahi ladles out varieties of soups or stews (tavshilim) reflecting ethnic cuisines as diverse as Indian, Arab and North African.

Soups: On any given day – winter or summer – there will be a choice of some eight different soups and/or other warming dishes that also happen to be quite healthful: Mizrahi proudly points out that all of his soups are made from scratch and contain no powders, no sugar, no gluten and no oil. Moreover, his kosher soups are vegan – i.e., no meat or dairy.

Overall Menu: The soups of the day are handwritten in Hebrew on a white board, with tastes graciously offered. Side dishes include rice and couscous, while all orders come with a sourdough roll and the condiments tehina and skhoug. Small salads and occasionally sandwiches – as well as salubrious juices and smoothies, round out the menu. There is also a malabi dessert and a small deli on the premises.

Recommended: Dad’s lentil soup (a best seller), Mom’s split pea soup, Abzi’s black-eyed pea stew, and cauliflower-spinach coconut milk curry. Among the drinks, the anti-oxidant apple, ginger, celery, orange and lemon.

Mr. Marak. Kosher. 21 Marmorek St. Tel Aviv. Tel. (054) 436-3132.

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Ambiance: This veteran establishment on Dizengoff Circle is a microcosm of the aromas and sounds of India, the native land of proprietor, chef and vivacious local television personality Reena Pushkarna, whose video cooking demonstrations are screened on one wall. The interior décor is characterized by handsome leather and dark wood furnishings, as well as colorful parasols hanging from the ceiling; there is also ample outdoor al fresco seating overlooking the plaza’s iconic fountain.

Soups: Three soups are a permanent feature of the menu: tomato, vegetable and the evocative Mulligatawny – the subcontinent’s unique dish that evolved from Sri Lankan “pepper water” to today’s multi-faceted Anglo-Indian hybrid. The Tandoori version – tasty, hearty and satisfying – is based largely on lentils. (Of course, in addition to the soups, India’s ubiquitous curries are naturally warming.)

Overall Menu: The leather-bound food menu enumerates page after page of Appetizers (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), Salads, Tandoori [clay oven] specialties, Curries, Breads and [rice] Biryanis, not to mention Desserts. Vegan and vegetarian dishes may be found throughout the menu, and also have their own separate sections. There is also a plethora of gluten-free options. Drinks include beer imported from India, as well as that country’s lassi yogurt beverages.

Recommended: The vegetarian appetizer platter; garlic naan (among the breads); Chicken Vindaloo (among the curries); Paneer Tikka (from the tandoor); and the distinctive Gulab Jamun (among the desserts).

Tandoori, Not kosher. 2 Zamenhof St., Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 629-6185. (Note: There is also a branch in Herzliya.)

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Ambiance: Tatti is a friendly neighborhood bistro in a strip mall on the border of Tel Aviv and Givatayim that has expanded into a chain whose satellites – a bakery and Tatti Loft – have different vibes. It is open at varying hours depending on the day of the week, but it serves lunch and dinner daily, with brunch on the weekend.

Soups: During the winter months, the soup menu grows to become quite comprehensive, with an emphasis on potages – thick soups containing cream. Among the nearly 10 varieties that rotate – generally two available at any given meal – may be found Jerusalem artichoke, vichysoisse, cauliflower, tomato, lentil and even eggplant – all served with grilled brown bread and soft butter.

Overall Menu: The dinner food menu has something for everyone, including Starters; Salads; Pizzas; Pastas; Main Courses and (separately) Desserts. The mains are even subdivided into two categories – Meat/Poultry and Fish – and there is also a separate section of Side Dishes, In addition, there are daily specials.

Recommended: The house sangria (among the cocktails and wines), orange root vegetables soup, combining sweet potato and carrot; .the house’s Bazooka Gnocchi – in a creamy beet and Gorgonzola sauce and the Chestnut Tortellini (both among the pastas); the Shrimp in a sauce of garlic wine and butter (among the main courses); and the Bread Pudding featuring brioche (among the desserts).

Tatti. Not kosher. 53 Derekh Hashalom, Givatayim. Tel. (03) 731-5880.

(Note: There is also a branch in Yehud.)

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