The sultry weather of a Tel Aviv summer is rarely conducive to sitting down to a heavy meal. As the heat oppresses, one might easily prefer simply to relax and cool off with a refreshing cocktail, while keeping hunger at bay with small or intermediate size dishes. Fortunately, there are two spots in the city that fill the bill quite nicely.
Double Standard is a bar that beckons with comfortable couches and leather seats on the sidewalk of the busy (and sometimes noisy) corner of Nordau and Dizengoff Streets, a few short blocks from the beach. For those preferring an artificially cooled environment, there is a small, cozy interior, with the A/C set close to freezing, and loud cantina music.
Happy hour—when cocktails, beer and wine are 1+1 (buy one drink, get one free)—extends nightly from 6pm-9pm. Double Standard stays open very late, into the wee hours of the morning.
The alcohol menu lists 12 specialty cocktails, each more creative than the next—and that includes the presentations. The Solero, for example—an exotic blend of rum, mango, passion fruit and, of all things, cherry tomato syrup, coconut milk and Indian spices—is served in glass shaped like a dove, and sipped through a straw in the tail.
The theme of Indian spices continues with the Vesper—tequila, vermouth, cardamom and cinnamon, flamboyantly garnished with an orange wedge and a purple orchid. The cocktail tastes as good as it sounds.
As we sipped our cocktails, we perused the food menu, which featured 11 tapas that included vegetarian, meat and fish dishes. We started with the chicken liver pâté cooked with whiskey and butter, served with toast and onion marmalade. The astounding richness of the pâté was cut by the sweetness of the jam, and together it was a winning combination.
Our fish tapas was the ceviche Bloody Mary, slices of sea bass marinated in lime juice, coriander and chili, and served with a shot glass of vodka and tomato juice meant to be poured over the exceedingly fresh raw fish. It was a novel, and delicious, take on a classic dish.
As an example of vegetarian tapas, we ordered the cauliflower baked with garlic and anise. The beautiful golden brown cauliflower was redolent with savory garlic and undertones of licorice, a terrific way of getting your healthy nutrients.
There are only two desserts on the menu, and one—the cheesecake—was not available on the evening we were there. The salty caramel chocolate fudge cake, on the other hand, was a complex explosion of sweet and salty sensation.
We washed down our dessert with the Double Standard’s Summer Mule—vodka, lime, ginger and melon, garnished with lemon, cantaloupe and mint—a sweet and refreshing finale.
Double Standard. Not kosher. Dizengoff St, 247, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 555-0966
Just a few blocks east of Double Standard, in the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood, is the twin establishment Juno Wine Bar, and its smaller, newer sister, La Cotta. Virtually all customers—representing a cross-section of all ages—sit in the leafy and shady al fresco area, as classic oldies and light jazz play in the background.
While Juno primarily serves bottles and glasses of wine, and a few dishes that are more substantial than tapas, La Cotta specializes in cocktails, and tapas that revolve largely around a variety of bruschette, but also branch out to encompass salads and even pasta.
There are seven house cocktails, from which our waitress recommended the Perfect Martini—vodka, ginger, kiwi, apple and lemon, garnished with mint and apple—a refreshing, fruity drink that packs a punch.
Another good choice is the Aperitivo—gin, Campari, passion fruit, lemon and grapefruit, which represents a nice balance of sweet, tart and bitter.
The food menu begins with eight bruschette, and once again our waitress was ready with recommendations. First was the artichoke with bouche de chèvre, and truffle paste, in which briny artichoke and rich, semi-soft goat cheese were enhanced by a thin layer of truffle spread.
Another excellent combination of vegetable with cheese was the mushroom with Gorgonzola, parsley and sour cream. This was served warm on soft bread and resembled a slice of pizza bianca more than a typical bruschetta.
Two bruschette highlight quality smoked fish: smoked salmon with crême fraîche, radish and green onion, as good as you would find in the best breakfast buffet of a five-star hotel.
The herring cream bruschetta was a real treat: cured fish, cream cheese, olives, scallion, peppers and black olives—a colorful smorgasbord arrayed on a large square of black bread toast.
Our one foray out of the bruschetta category was the baked beets in a balsamic glaze with Gorgonzola and oregano. We devoured this generous portion of al dente beets paired with zesty blue cheese together with the fluffy house focaccia, which was toasted and seasoned with chimichurri, olive oil, and garlic.
The two desserts on the La Cotta menu are tiramisu and chocolate nougat fingers. The former is an ideal light dessert for a warm summer evening.
And it goes down well with a glass of chilled sangria rosé, a hybrid wine cocktail that adds elderflower liqueur to pink wine, with a plentiful garnish of apple, orange and mint.
For a relaxing evening in a tranquil setting, it is hard to beat cocktails and tapas at La Cotta.
La Cotta. Not kosher. De Haas St. 1, Kikar Milano, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 544-6620.