In recent years, Israelis have come to love Asian food, as the proliferation of restaurants serving the cuisines of Japan, Thailand and Vietnam attests.
One favorite food common to all these cuisines is noodles: this Oriental pasta has become so popular it has even spawned entire chains of restaurants specializing primarily in stir-fried noodles.
The menus of most of the places listed have dedicated noodle sections. In general, the portions are quite generous; many also offer whole grain and/or gluten-free options. The restaurants are not ranked, rather listed in alphabetical order; three are certified kosher. All have English-language menus; most offer delivery and/or take-away service. Price refers to noodle dishes only.
GiraffeAmbience: Tel Aviv’s noodle bar pioneer has rapidly grown into a nationwide chain of nine restaurants. Its flagship restaurant near Rabin Square has expanded since it opened, almost doubling both its indoor seating and the al fresco seating area on the sidewalk in front.
Beverages: Full bar, specialty cocktails, beer, wine, soft drinks and hot drinks
Noodles: There are nine dishes in the noodles section, plus one among the starters, and three Pad Thai variations listed separately. Some branches may not offer bacon or pork. There are vegan and vegetarian options, and a separate gluten-free section.
Recommended are the Empress (the most popular, according to the manager), the slow-cooked meaty noodles (a new menu item), and the Malaysian.
Other menu items: Other menu categories are cold starters, warm starters, dim sum, soups, sushi, and rice main dishes.
Desserts: There are six desserts, including a new lemon pie and classic profiteroles.
Price: NIS 54-64 (including Pad Thai); 15% off during business lunch hours
Giraffe. Not kosher. Ibn Gvirol St. 49, Tel Aviv. Tel.(03) 609-18066
NagisaAmbience: This chain of kosher Asian restaurants in the center of the country has two branches in Tel Aviv, one in the distinctive round shopping center at the Tzomet HaPil intersection, with both Indoor and al fresco seating. Handicapped accessible.
Beverages: Wine, bottled beer (including Asian brands), soft drinks
Noodles: The Stir-Fried section of the menu comprises 13 noodles dishes 13 (along with a sprinkling of rice dishes), reflecting various Asian cuisines. There are also two noodle variations among the starters: spring roll and wakame salad.
Recommended are the Coco Curry Flakes -- sautéed rice noodle rolls with chicken (vegetarian option available), sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, and onion in red curry and coconut milk sauce -- and the Spicy Beef -- rice noodles with beef slices, assorted mushrooms, peanuts and green onion in a piquant house sauce
Other menu items and desserts. Menu sections besides stir-fried are starters, sushi, soup, and main courses.
There are four desserts, two Western and two Asian.
Price: NIS 39-59.
Nagisa. Kosher. Bnei Efraim 280, Tel Aviv. Tel. *5255, ext. 8
Ambience: The two branches of this small chain of sushi and sake eateries are in Levontin and Neve Tzedek; the latter outlet is tiny, with counter seating either overlooking the sushi chef or the street. There are a few small tables on sidewalk.
Beverages: Full bar, specialty cocktails, Japanese alcohol, wine, imported and domestic bottled beer, soft drinks, hot drinks
Noodles: While there are four noodle dishes in their own section (one of which, surprisingly is Pad Thai), other variations can also be found in the soups, salads and starters sections. Most noodle dishes have vegan options
Recommended are the Yaki Udon -- noodles with choice of protein in a slightly spicy sauce of coconut milk and peanut butter -- and the sashimi salad, raw salmon and red tuna with vermicelli noodles.
Other menu items. Menu sections include salads, soups, starters, tempura, rice dishes, buns, side dishes and dozens of sushi rolls and combinations, along with many standard Japanese raw fish dishes. A smattering of other Asian cuisines are represented throughout.
Desserts: There are six Western desserts, although the crême brulée is flavored with yuzu (Japanese citrus).
Price; NIS 36-61.
Okinawa. Not kosher. Shabazi St. 46, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 510-1099
Ambience: This chain of eateries and kiosks has grown to comprise 25 branches throughout the country, most of which are kosher. The branch in Namal Tel Aviv has bright and airy al fresco seating overlooking the sea.
Beverages: Beer, soft drinks, hot drinks
Noodles: While the chain is best known for sushi, its menu has expanded greatly over the 10 years of its existence. There are now seven noodle dishes in the Wok section of its colorful menu. There is also a miso noodle soup. Most noodle dishes have vegetarian/vegan options
Recommended are the Shiitake mushroom noodles -- egg noodles with two kinds of mushrooms, chicken, broccoli, and scallion -- and the chili pepper noodles -- egg noodles with chili, corn, carrot, onion, capsicum, beef and chicken (spicy!).
Other menu items. Other menu sections include Entrees, Kids’ meals, and many sushi and maki rolls, cones and combinations.
Desserts: There are four desserts, three of which have varying degrees of chocolate.
Price: NIS 50-60.
Oshi Oshi. Kosher. Hangar 21, Tel Aviv Port, Tel Aviv. Tel. *6054
Ambience: This small chain is left with two outlets after its central Tel Aviv location closed. The Ramat Aviv branch is a cozy eatery tucked behind a major shopping center, with handsome wood furnishings, bar seating at the sushi counter and al fresco seating fronting a quiet side street.
Beverages: Wine, beer, sake, soft drinks
Noodles: There are four noodle dishes listed under their own heading, in the umbrella section of Main Courses, but others pop up elsewhere: one among the cold entrees and another among the hot entrees (the Tom Yam soup).
Recommended are the Piquant -- egg noodles with pepper, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, scallion, onion and cilantro, with seafood as the optional extra -- and the Red -- egg noodles with vegetables, peanuts and cilantro in a red curry and coconut milk sauce, with chicken as the optional extra,
Other menu items: Other menu categories are Specials, Rice, Vegetarian, Fish and Seafood and a plethora of sushi dishes.
Desserts: There are three Western desserts -- all featuring chocolate -- that are explained by the wait staff.
Price: NIS 42, with extra ingredients ranging from NIS 3-15 each.
Sui Sushi. Not kosher. Brazil St. 17, Ramat Aviv. Tel. (03) 642-9948.
TayaAmbience: A modern, attractive setting in a suburban shopping center, with indoor and al fresco seating. There is lots of free parking.
Beverages: Full bar with specialty cocktails, imported and domestic beers (including Israeli craft beers), wine, sake, soft drinks and hot drinks. There are is a warm cocktail list in the winter.
Noodles: Noodle dishes are found in two menu categories: no fewer than 11 under Wok (including two vegan options, and gluten-free variations based on rice noodles) plus an additional three under the heading Noodles in Soup.
Recommended are the Indonesian Lo Mein, with beef, and the Coconut Dragon noodles, served in a rich coconut milk soup.
Other menu items: The menu here is electronic, on an iPad, in three languages: English Hebrew and Russian. The many categories are Starters, Salads, Sushi, Rice plus, Nudles (sic), Specials, and Gyoza (Japanese dumplings). There are also separate headings for Kids and Vegan.
Desserts: There are nine desserts, all rather large and extravagant, inspired by both East and West cuisines.
Price: NIS 53-67. The business lunch discount of 15% applies every weekday until 17.00. There are also weekly 1+1 and 2+1 deals available to members of the restaurant’s loyalty club, which is free to join, online or in person (the restaurant prefers you register 24 hours in advance).
Taya. Not kosher. Ha’ofeh St 1, Kadima. Tel. (09) 772-8878
Thai on Har Sinai
Ambience: Nestled in the corner of the alley behind Tel Aviv’s Great Synagogue, this signless restaurant with very basic wooden tables and chairs has large seating areas indoors and al fresco in its own patio. It can get a little noisy when crowded, which is most days.
Beverages: Full bar, specialty cocktails, wine, beer, soft drinks. This is one of the few places in town serving Singha beer on tap, Thailand’s most popular brew.
Noodles: Noodle dishes can be found in three different categories on the menu: two in Wok, one in Curry/Soup and one in Deep Fry.
Recommended are the Pad Thai, the classic Thai noodle dish, with shrimp (although chicken or tofu are also available as choices), and Kao Soy, yellow curry with chicken that is both chock full of egg noodles and topped with crispy noodles.
Other menu items: The dinner menu sections are Salads, Soup/Curry, Grill, Wok (which includes noodles) and Deep Fry. There are also daily specials.
Desserts: Four Asian desserts were listed by our waitress. We enjoyed the panna cotta with mango, coconut chips and candied peanuts, as well as the sticky rice cake with jasmine whipped cream.
Price: NIS 58-72
Thai on Har Sinai. Not kosher. Har Sinai Alley, Tel Aviv. Tel. (054) 201-7132
VongAmbience: Located along restaurant row in the Rothschild-Herzl area, Vong’s indoor seating and bar surround an open kitchen. The decor is basic wooden furnishings, both indoors and outdoors on the sidewalk.
Beverages: Full bar, specialty cocktails, beer, wine, soft drinks.
Noodles: Most of the noodle dishes are in the category Wok -- and inversely, most of the dishes in the Wok section are noodles -- although they can also be found under the heading Pho, which is Vietnam’s national dish.
Recommended are the Beef Pho -- a meal of noodles, meat and vegetables in a bowl -- and Dien Dien, spicy noodles with chicken, chili, cilantro and Vietnamese herbs.
Other menu items: The menu has undergone a complete overhaul since our visit in April, but rest assured that Vong boasts one of the most comprehensive Vietnamese menus in Israel, with appetizers, soups, stir-fried dishes and curries.
Desserts: There are six desserts; the Asian-inspired ones tend to be exceedingly sweet.
Price: NIS 45-74.
Vong Vietnamese Kitchen. Not kosher. 15 Rothschild Blvd. 15, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 633-7171
Wok A WayAmbience: An eight-outlet chain whose Rabin Square branch is basically just a storefront with just a few counter seats indoors. The outdoor seating on the sidewalk is at high tables only, with practically backless metal stools. Note: There is no restroom, although there is a sink for washing hands.
Beverages: Soft drinks and bottled beer, self-serve from the refrigerated case
Noodles: As the chain’s name suggests, the brand is built around take-away business; all dishes, even those eaten on the premises, are served in disposable cardboard containers. There is no wait staff: place an order at the cash register and pick it up, or order and pay using the large electronic terminal at the entrance.
There are two categories of noodle dishes: 1) build-your-own by choosing one of five kinds of noodles, then adding veggies from a multitude of choices, and/or a substantial protein: chicken, beef, tofu, or goose breast (there is also salmon, at an extra charge; 2) there are also six ready made noodle dishes.
Recommended among the ready-made noodle combinations is the Smoky.
Other menu items: Appetizers, Soups, Baguette (sandwiches), Salads, Rice (dishes) and Kids’ portions.
Desserts: No desserts are offered.
Price: NIS 36-48.
Wok A Way. Kosher. Ibn Gvirol St. 64, Tel Aviv. Tel. *8022
Wok to WalkAmbience: Wok to Walk is actually an international franchise operation, with restaurants on five continents, and four outlets in central Israel. In concept, it is basically a clone of Wok A Way (above) -- although Wok to Walk, founded in 2004, came first. The primary difference between the two chains is that Wok A Way is kosher, while Wok to Walk offers decidedly non-kosher options.
Beverages: Soft drinks and bottled beer.
Noodles: Entirely build-your-own noodle dish by choosing one of four kinds of noodle -- rice, whole wheat, egg or udon -- to serve as your base, then adding one (or two) of eight kinds of sauce (mild or two levels of spicy), up to three of 12 vegetable choices, one of six proteins -- chicken, bacon, beef, tofu, crispy schnitzel or baby shrimp -- and finally, one or two out of five condiment toppings, such as sesame seeds or chopped peanuts. Alternatively, avoid carbs altogether and substitute a veggie mix for noodles to serve as your base.
There are simply too many possible combinations to recommend any particular one or two.
Desserts: No desserts are offered.
Price: NIS 23.90 for the noodles and sauce, additional ingredients range from NIS 2-12 each.
Wok to Walk. Not kosher. Nahalat Binyamin St. 52, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 944-1918