Eating out in Israel’s best restaurants can be an expensive proposition, but one way to get a little more for your money is to go for lunch -- in particular, the iskit tzharayim, or what is known as either the “business lunch” or, as we prefer, the “value lunch.”
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, business 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.
Following our popular roundup of value lunches in Tel Aviv, the alphabetical list below includes some leading restaurants located outside the big city; all have English menus, one is certified kosher and another has a separate gluten-free menu. The price range refers to the cost of a main course, including an accompanying starter.
Ambiance: Cramim, House of Food and Wine, located in the industrial zone of Moshav Segula (some 40km south of Tel Aviv), has a large, pleasant al fresco seating area surrounded with green hedges. Rustic wood furnishing characterizes the decor of the spacious interior.
The value lunch: Appetizer, main course and drink for the price of the main course. The complimentary drinks include a glass of house wine or a non-alcoholic drink (quite a few to choose from), while there are reduced prices on other beverages.
The five main course categories of the extensive menu include pastas, fish and seafood, meat, and steaks (priced by weight). There are plenty of vegetarian options, but few vegan ones.
Recommended appetizers are the liver pâté with onion jam and the lamb baklawa; recommended main courses are the Porterhouse steak and the “sea of shrimp” with a choice of three sauces.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 12.00-17.00.
Price range: NIS 74-133. The steaks sold by weight can run higher.
Cramim. Not kosher. Moshav Segula. Tel. (08) 996-6444
Ambiance: Situated in the heart of the hi-tech corridor in Herzliya Pituah, Etnika occupies a large, high-ceilinged room with a handsome oriental décor.
The value lunch: According to our waiter, the cuisine here is Moroccan fusion. The lunch deal includes choices from eight starters and five drinks for the price of your main course. In addition, there are reduced prices on wine, beer, and premium non-alcoholic beverages.
The main courses feature plenty of meat and poultry dishes, plus fish and vegan options, and even an entire section revolving around couscous. There is also a mixed grill listed on the regular menu that we were told is a lunch special as well.
Recommended appetizers are the Moroccan cigars, and the chopped liver with fried onions; a recommended main course is the mixed grill, containing entrecôte, filet mignon, pullet (pargit) and kebab, plus green beans, grilled tomato and onion, and a skewer of grilled veggies. This dish also comes with two side dishes, of which we selected rice and mashed potatoes.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 12.00-17.00
Price range: NIS 58-390 (meant to be shared by two); three specially priced desserts, NIS 26-36
Etnika. Kosher. Shenkar St. 7, Herzliya. Tel. (09) 951-1177.
Ambiance: The spacious Greco bouzoukia in Herzliya Pituah is on the ground floor of a gleaming, modern office building, with an inviting al fresco area and outdoor seating in the rear. The Greek blue-and-white décor is similar to that of its sister restaurant in north Tel Aviv.
The value lunch: The price of the main course will also get you grilled Greek pita bread with Himani Domata, Greek pickles and a choice of either two small mezze or soup. There are also reduced prices on select cocktails and desserts.
The main courses may be selected from no fewer than five menu categories, including both hot and cold dishes. Recommended among the mezze are the skordalia and the liver spread; recommended main courses are the lamb T-bone and the seafood saganaki.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 12.00-17.00
Price range: NIS 54-136; three desserts, NIS 18 each
Greco. Not kosher. Abba Eban St. 9, Herzliya. Tel. (09) 740-4747
Ambiance: A family-friendly restaurant in a large suburban shopping mall, with some bar seating and an open kitchen. There is an al fresco seating area that is semi-enclosed in the winter.
The value lunch: This lunch deal includes choice of a salad, the house focaccia or the soup of the day with your main course. In addition, there is free soda water with unlimited refills, or you can upgrade your beverage with special prices on soft drinks, beer, wine and hot drinks. Similarly, there are two appetizers special appetizers for a surcharge of NIS 10.
The lists of pastas and pizzas offered as main courses add up to one of the most extensive value lunch menus out there. There are four clusters of value lunches categorized by price, starting at NIS 44 and increasing to NIS 52, 59 and 69. The most expensive value lunch includes premium seafood and meat options.
Recommended appetizers are the lentil soup and the arancini; recommended main courses are the pappardelle terra mare (seafood and bacon), and the shrimp scampi with spaghetti.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11.45 - 17.00
Price range: NIS 44-69; a quartet of mini-desserts, NIS 12 each
Piano Piano. Not kosher. G Mall, Weizman St. 301, Kfar Saba. Tel. (09) 768-8778
Ambiance: The color black dominates the restaurant’s ultra-modern decor -- walls, tables, chairs, ceiling, and even the waiters’ uniforms -- yet the place is brightened somewhat by the use of mirrors and strategically placed lighting. Both the ground floor and balcony give the impression of intimacy; but if it is quiet conversation you want, upstairs is the better bet.
The value lunch: SegevArt also offers “package deal” value lunches -- two lists of main courses priced at NIS 89 and NIS 99, each of which you may pair with a complimentary first course, many of which are quite generous in size. All dishes here are served with that special SegevArt flair, with each presentation a work of art.
Another great extra here is the existence of a special menu featuring exclusively gluten-free dishes, in both the first course and main course categories.
Recommended first courses are the butter and parmesan risotto, with portobello mushrooms, shallots and asparagus; the baby gnocchi with goat cheese, cream, porcini mushrooms and zucchini; and the salmon tataki with toasted black quinoa, cranberries and candied pecans.
Recommended salads are the spicy sprouts with radish, kohlrabi, chili aioli and cashews, as well as the feast salad, with greens, St. Maure cheese, pear and pecans.
Recommended main courses are the beet ravioli stuffed with goat cheese, in a butter-and-parmesan sauce with leek and shimeji mushrooms; the chicken steak with artichoke cream and smoked chestnuts; and the drum fish fillet in beurre blanc sauce with shimeji mushrooms.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 12.00 - 16.00
Price range: NIS 89-99. There is a special dessert menu with four desserts (NIS 39).
SegevArt. Not kosher. Shenkar St. 16, Herzliya Pituah. Tel. (077) 414-2025, ext. 2