The tantalizing aroma of grilling meat wafts from the open kitchen of Arais, a no-frills restaurant that occupies prime corner space along the northern exterior of Sarona Market. Most of the restaurant’s seating is al fresco, with views of both the Sarona compound and the chef at work.
Arais opened its doors in 2015 and has been a mainstay of Sarona Market ever since, even while many of its similarly outdoor neighbors closed. The architect of the restaurant’s menu was Chef Yaron Kestenbaum, who currently helms the highly acclaimed Carmel Market eatery M25.
The restaurant serves no cocktails, and the selection of beers and wine is rather limited. The good news is that all wines are available by the glass.
The menu -- with separate versions in English and Hebrew -- comprises six sections: Starters (under the heading Grab-Em), Salads, Main Courses (under the heading Old School Market), On a Stick (referring to skewers), From the Butcher -- a grouping of premium steaks -- and Desserts. There is also a Kids Menu.
We started our meal with the house meatballs -- lamb kebab and merguez meatballs, served on a bed of baba ganoush. The kebab element was dominant in these meatballs, which were plenty tasty, especially together with the slightly spicy baked eggplant salad.
To accompany the meatballs we asked for the house bread and were served fresh, warm pita, which was an ideal accompaniment.
Our first main course was the Smokin’ Beef, consisting of -- in spite of the name -- “lamb breast and citrusy smoked Denver cut.” The chewy chunks of lamb and Denver cut -- which the Hebrew menu renders as entrecôte -- were quite flavorful, as long as you remember to dig them out from under the mound of tomato salad dressed with tehina, as well as a generous dollop of the restaurant’s special pickled lemon condiment.
In this context it is worth pointing out that on a previous visit, I had ordered the Denver cut listed in the “From the Butcher” category -- and it was actually one of the best steaks I had eaten anywhere, in a long time.
This time around, I was keen to taste the butcher’s picanha, that prime cut of rump steak so favored by carnivorous Brazilians. The thin slices of beef were served in the same manner as the restaurant’s premium steaks -- on a sizzling hot metal platter, with a hot stone for extra cooking, if desired. The slices of meat may not have been thick, but they certainly packed a surprising amount of robust flavor.
Also on the hot tray were two excellent sides: roasted potato and grilled onion, both wonderful complements to the meat. The potato halves were a perfect golden brown flecked with grains of black pepper, while the onion practically melted in the mouth.
There are four desserts on the menu, including one dessert of the day, which is explained by the waiter. He recommended the malabi, which is a very common dessert in restaurants specializing in grilled meats; and the version here was as ordinary as most of the rest.
On the other hand, the daily special on the evening of our visit was considerably more extravagant: nutella mousse, in a candy shell, with squiggles of chiffony white chocolate and drizzled caramel -- all in all, a very sweet and memorable finish to our meal.
Arais has become a reliable standby in Sarona Market, thanks to a menu that offers a variety of quality meats, from the everyday familiar to upscale steaks suitable for special occasions, at prices commensurate with that range.
Arais, House of Meat
Kalman Magen 3, Tel Aviv
Tel. (03) 550-9070