Ta-im Israeli Cuisine: More than just falafel
On a small side street about ten minutes walk from Ebisu station on the way to Hiroo you’ll find a small restaurant with an unassuming shop front in a neighborhood of hip cafés and art galleries. The name of the place, painted in big blue letters on the window, is Hebrew for “delicious”—and so is the cuisine offered at Ta-im.
Owner Dan Zuckerman hasn’t done any advertising, and had the misfortune to open his restaurant shortly after the March 11 earthquake. But somehow, word spread about his authentic, made-from-scratch food. Ta-im now does brisk business, particularly in the evenings, so be sure to make a reservation. With counter seating for only about 12 people, it’s a cozy fit, but Zuckerman, a true mensch, makes it feel more like a family event than a random gathering of strangers. He chats enthusiastically with all the guests, while getting them to talk to each other as well.
On a recent dinner visit, we availed ourselves of the highly recommended falafel (¥680/4) and were not disappointed. They were fried to order and came out with just the right crispness. In true Israeli style they were served with both tahini sauce and a spicy red harissa paste (made from chili peppers, paprika and olive oil). We added a plate of mixed dips, including personal favorites hummus and babaganoush, and some piping-hot pita. We also opted for the tabbouleh salad (¥520 medium, ¥720 large).
The vegetarian in our party was in paroxysms of delight by this bounty, nor could we blame her. The pita was the fluffy, slightly chewy type that complemented the dips perfectly without an overpowering yeasty flavor, and the hummus had that creamy smoothness that is so hard to recreate at home. The tabbouleh was some of the best we’ve had in ages, with the crunchy sweetness of the cucumbers balancing the acidic tomatoes, and just the right amount of cilantro.
Meat eaters can choose from dishes like chicken schnitzel (¥1,380) and sautéed lamb (¥1,680)—though the menu changes based on availability. We popped in for a meat-inclusive lunch a few days later and tried a set with sautéed chicken and peppers, fried potatoes, soup, salad, pita and hummus (¥1,300). We finished every last bite—including a few falafel balls laid on top—despite almost bursting at the seams.
The drink menu covers the basics, with some reasonably priced Israeli wines. We matched our vegetarian nosh with glasses of Yarden Viognier from the Golan Heights and were pleasantly surprised with its tart and fruity drinkability. Draft and bottled beers are available as well.
For dessert, don’t pass on the baklava, although it is not made in-house. The filo is crispy and sweet without being gooey, the pistachios taste just right, and the small serving makes it almost guilt-free. And, how can you say no when the owner offers you a free one just to hang out a little longer?
Fans of Middle Eastern cuisine and those looking for some new vegetarian options in Tokyo should go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land of tasty Ta-im.