The formula is pretty much the same everywhere: for the price of your main course, you also get a full-sized appetizer. In many places, complimentary house bread is also included, and sometimes a non-alcoholic drink. Often, cocktails or wine are offered at a substantial discount, and frequently dessert as well.
Usually, value lunches are served only on weekdays -- Monday through Thursday -- during standard lunchtime hours, but some are offered until as late as 17.00, thus becoming an “early bird” dinner special.
The alphabetical list below includes some of Tel Aviv’s most prestigious fine dining restaurants; all have English menus, and one is certified kosher. The price range refers to the cost of a main course, including an accompanying starter.
Ambiance: In an atmospheric ivy-covered stone building in the southeast corner of the Sarona Compound sits Chef Ran Shmueli’s Claro, a farm-to-table restaurant that is consistently rated among the top places to eat in Tel Aviv. The large, spacious dining area boasts comfortable seating, an open kitchen and a dessert corner that is worth visiting at the end of your meal.
The value lunch: The menu rotates monthly, although there are many staple dishes among the numerous choices of starters and main courses, which include a reasonable selection of vegan and vegetarian options.
Recommended starters are the raw Mediterranean fish with freekeh tabouleh, and the oven-roasted Arabian cabbage with spicy coriander vinaigrette; recommended main courses are the delicately smoked trout with white horseradish sauce and the daily steak with pomegranate reduction.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 12.00-16.30
Price range: NIS 78-164, which includes a non-alcoholic beverage. There are two special cocktails, and one house red wine and one house white wine, at reduced prices. Dessert is a discounted NIS 36. Some starters require a surcharge.
Claro. Not kosher. Ha’Arba’a St. 23, Sarona Compound, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 601-7777.
Ambiance: One of the most interesting gastronomic experiments taking place in Israel today is happening in a modern, sleek restaurant on Lilienblum Street. The L 28 culinary platform is a project of Start Up Nation Central, whereby guest chefs are invited to helm the kitchen in six-month rotations and encouraged to innovate. The first two chefs are Israelis who earned their chops working overseas; Gabriel Israel, has just finished his stint; the new chef, Naifa Mulla, from the Druze village of Yarka, will be in charge for the next half-year.
The value lunch: The menu is divided into starters called Small Plates, and Main courses called Big Plates. There are is one vegetarian (but no vegan) big plate.
Recommended small plates are the shishito peppers with curry aioli, and the fish carpaccio with sesame crumble; recommended big plates are the sumac chicken with endive and fennel, and the grilled tenderloin with potatoes and celery powder. (Note: This refers to Chef Israel’s menu; there will be changes under the new chef).
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 12.00-15.00 (Note: value lunches are on a temporary hold while Chef Mulla settles in).
Price: NIS 69-98. Some startres may bear a surcharge. A nice bonus is the complimentary sourdough bread (by Shroitman) with smoked salt and butter.
L 28. Not kosher. Lilienblum St. 28, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 900-3560.
Ambiance: Nomi is the new domain of acclaimed chef Yoram Nitzan, formerly of Mul Yam and Bindella. The elegantly appointed restaurant in the luxurious David Intercontinental Hotel is also the first kosher venture for Nitzan, who is now attracting a whole new clientele.
The value lunch: The menu features an equal number of starters and main courses, with several vegan options.
Recommended starters are the grated cauliflower salad with pink tehina, and the fish tartare in cucumber wasabi gazpacho; recommended main courses are the mushroom risotto with Jerusalem artichoke, and the Black Angus beef sirloin.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 13.00-15.00
Price: NIS 96-165. Like regular meals, value lunches come with a complimentary basket of breads, with tasty vegan spreads.
Nomi. Kosher. David Intercontinental Hotel, Kaufman St. 12, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 795-1255.
Ambiance: The name Pomo derives from pomodoro, the Italian word for tomato. And while the emphasis is indeed on Italian cuisine, the menu is eclectic enough to please everyone. Design is also one of the strong suits of this handsome restaurant, with an impressive pizza oven, and a large deck for al fresco seating out front.
The value lunch: The meal starts with complimentary house focaccia, and a choice of a small selection of starters. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. (The English menu may not be as up-to-date as the Hebrew one.)
Interestingly, there are two categories of main course: mains and pastas. Recommended starters are the ceviche di pesce and the roast beef, while a recommended main course is the whole sea bass cooked in the Josper oven, and a recommended pasta is the frutti di mare -- mixed seafood with torn pasta.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 12.00-17.00.
Price: Main courses, NIS 79-159; Pastas, NIS 76-99. Designated cocktails, as well as one wine and one beer, are also available at discounted prices.
Pomo. Not kosher. HaBarzel St. 11, Tel Aviv. Tel. 03-922-5320
Ambiance: Located in the upscale residential/commercial complex Sea & Sun in north Tel Aviv, Seatara is the only beachfront restaurant on our list, with a lovely al fresco terrace that catches sea breezes. The comfortable interior enjoys the same view of endless water.
The value lunch: The deal here includes the house focaccia with three dips, as well as a hot and cold beverage, along with the starter and main course. There are also several variations on the theme: in addition to the standard value lunch, there are three special sushi combination lunches, and a Chef’s Tasting Menu comprising three small plates from the list of first courses plus one main course.
The main courses offered are quite different from the dinner menu main courses: there are pastas, pizzas, chicken and fish, but no seafood or meat (except kebab and hamburger). Recommended starters are the shrimp cigar and the green salad with goat cheese, berries and pralined pecans, while recommended main courses are gnocchi with spinach and asparagus, and sea bream fillet on green pea cream.
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 12.00-17.00.
Price: NIS 89-145. Sushi lunch, NIS 95-135. Chef’s Tasting Menu, NIS 170. Glasses of wine (NIS 30) and desserts (NIS 25) are also discounted.
Seatara. Not kosher. Sea and Sun, Herzl Rosenblum St. 8, Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 699-6633