Ewa Safi is self-described as a Moroccan lounge, conjuring up images of divans with brocaded cushions. In reality, with the exception of one or two sofas, the seating is standard restaurant issue—although the turquoise-accented North African decor is attractively atmospheric.
The other description the restaurant attributes to itself pertains to its cuisine: Moroccan soul food. According to Ewa Safi’s owner, it serves Jewish food from Casablanca, inspired by his mother’s cooking, while using only the freshest and finest ingredients.
Ewa Safi has been open for only five months, the reason given for the unavailability of a wine or cocktail list in English—even though the food menu is trilingual (Hebrew, English and French). It also employs colorful symbols indicating when dishes are spicy, very spicy, vegetarian or vegan.
The full bar offers six specialty cocktails, listed on a two-sided card bearing the identical Hebrew on both sides. The eponymous house cocktail, the Ewa Safi, blends vodka, amaretto, lemon and caramelized chili, garnished with lemon and a large red pepper as tall as the glass in which it is served. The result is a refreshing drink with with a bite of heat, mellowed by sweetness.
A Moroccan meal at Ewa Safi starts with a spread of salads, served with warm farina bread—like a thick, pillowy pita—baked on the premises. The mezze that stood out here were the smooth eggplant cream, the rich Har Brakha tehina, the spicy cherry tomatoes and a superb matboukha.
Our first starter was the veal sweetbreads in a red sauce that looked the same as the ones we saw accompanying fish steaks and patties. This was a delicacy that melts in the mouth, in a pleasantly piquant sauce that begged to be mopped up with Ewa Safi’s fresh hallah.
Next was the pastilla, elegantly shaped golden, crispy phyllo dough stuffed with slow cooked shoulder of lamb, grilled spring chicken and caramelized dried fruit, topped with toasted almonds, and dusted with powdered sugar. The distinctive pastilla is one of my favorite Moroccan dishes, and this version did not disappoint.
The green herb salad consisted of chopped parsley, coriander and mint, sprinkled with toasted almonds, studded with dried cranberries, and drizzled with tehina. Unusual as this medley of ingredients might seem, the combination yielded a very nice interplay of flavors and textures.
There are four tajines on the menu, served in the same ceramic casseroles—with their unique cone-shaped lids—in which they were cooked. All feature couscous with vegetables, including the lamb osso buco with prunes and pumpkin confit. The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender, the succulent meat enhanced by the sweetness of the fruit. The candied pumpkin, meanwhile, was practically addictive.
Another house specialty is the Moroccan fries—cubed potatoes, seasoned to perfection.
The house wine is 4 vats, a pleasant red blend by Carmel Wineries.
There is only one dessert listed on the menu, and it is more a dessert category: Haliwat di mama, rendered as “traditional Moroccan cookies,” although the literal translation is “Mom’s sweets.” The broader definition is more accurate in reality as well, since we were served sufganiyot and malabi in addition to assorted cookies.
The sufganiyot came piping hot from the fryer, with a shot glass of rosewater-flavored syrup; the warm, syrupy doughnut dissolves on the tongue like the Moroccan equivalent of a Krispy Kreme. Unusually, the firm malabi is served in bars, reminiscent of pieces of cheesecake, while the dome-shaped cookies came in a variety of flavors. Dessert is accompanied by mint tea, served in small glasses from a traditional teapot.
Hashahar 8, Tel Aviv