Pop up or traditional: six wine bars to savor

Israel's growing reputation as a producer of award-winning vintages results in more wine bars becoming a part of the urban culinary scene that is as an international foodie destination

Buzzy Gordon|
The partial list that follows features half-a-dozen establishments in Tel Aviv that serve carefully curated wines – tastings, glasses and bottles – along with tempting tapas meant for sharing. Four of them are open most days of the week, while two of them operate on a weekly basis. There is even one whose wines and food are all certified kosher. (As usual, entries are not ranked, but rather listed in alphabetical order.)
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  • Felix
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    Felix
    Felix
    Felix
    (Photo: Buzzy Gordon)
    Ambiance: Located on upper Dizengoff (in the premises vacated by the late lamented bistro Hotel de Ville), Felix – like its neighbor both in the physical vicinity and in this list, Rova (below) – has the look and feel of a typical north Tel Aviv sidewalk bar-restaurant. It is also the only wine bar belonging to the famed Bellboy group of cocktail and culinary bars, run by people who know a thing or two about pleasing customers.
    Hours: Daily, 18.00-02.00. Happy Hour: Daily, 18.00-19.30 (30% discount on both the food and drinks menu)
    Wine: Felix has by far the most colorful and playful wine list in town; the two-page wine list is accompanied by a separate glossary of icons – emojis, if you will, that describe the flavor characteristics of all the vintages on offer. Not only is every wine in the no-fewer-than 11 sections of the main list accompanied by two symbols that complement the titles of each heading, there is also a knowledgeable and friendly English-speaking staff ready to advise you.
    There is a reasonable selection of wines available by the glass, with at least one in each category. In addition, there are three specialty cocktails, a house white sangria (by the glass or pitcher), and two specialty sangrias served in pitchers.
    Menu: The food menu comprises four sections, the first containing primarily starters and salads, the second consisting mostly of raw (and some cooked) fish, the third featuring meat, and the last desserts. Interestingly, we chose to have one of the dishes in the first section as a dessert.
    Recommended: The house sangria; Tuna ceviche; Minute steak; Burrata with spiced pear, crème brûlée, and amaretto semifreddo.
    Felix. Not kosher. 230 Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 974-6999.


    Jus
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    Just Bar a Vin
    Just Bar a Vin
    Jus Bar a Vin
    (Photo: Haim Yosef)
    Ambiance: Jus Bar à Vin is also located in the premises of a highly acclaimed and recently departed restaurant – Yahaloma Levy’s Sahki Sahki, on Tchernichovsky Street just off Allenby. Seating options include sidewalk tables, and indoors a few high tables or at a long bar or narrow counters with wooden stools. The soundtrack is cool jazz.
    Hours: Sunday-Friday, 18.00-0.00. Closed Saturdays.
    Wine: By virtue of small print, the one-page wine list manages to squeeze in seven whites, five reds, and two rosé wines. It is currently in Hebrew only, with an English version on the way. As may be expected from an establishment with a French name and ownership, vintages from France predominate; interestingly, moreover, there are also wines from Austria, as well as Italy, Spain and Argentina. The service is friendly and professional.
    Menu: The bilingual one-page food menu lists three cold plates, 10 prepared dishes (both cold and warm), and three desserts. Fortunately, the same sous chef who worked previously at Sahki Sahki, Adar Lotan, is still there – now as the chef – so the kitchen is in good hands.
    Recommended: Tomato-loquat gazpacho; roast beef with Savoy cabbage, fish in whey caramel, and yogurt ice cream with strawberry granita for dessert.
    Jus. Not kosher. 4 Tchernichovsky St., Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 774-4511.
    Pop-up
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    Pop Up
    Pop Up
    Pop Up
    (Photo: Buzzy Gordon )
    Ambiance: In a somewhat surprising location in an industrial building in south Tel Aviv, one enters from rather depressing external surroundings into a pleasant private room, leading to a spacious terrace and an expansive view, ideal for watching sunsets. Thera are also sizable tables indoors, and a lively yet unobtrusive soundtrack throughout. Entry is most convenient from the parking lot (which is free).
    Hours: Just once a week, usually on a weekday evening (predominantly Thursdays) or Friday matinee. The changing schedule may accessed online at either https://www.instagram.com/winebar_popup/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y%3D
    (Instagram) or https://www.facebook.com/groups/490547819189700/?ref=share (Facebook)
    Wine: The concept – the brainchild of host Eyal Naor, who owns the Private Room (Heder Prati), among other hospitality and event venues – is to host different Israeli or foreign wineries each week. Free tastes of quite a few select vintages are offered, after which one elects to purchase a bottle at the suggested retail store price, plus a corkage fee of NIS 25
    Menu: The items on the food menu are on actually display, and consist generally of five dishes, some of which are permanent – like the pizzas, or the cheese platter – while others rotate. There is also a small specialty deli selling premium products to snack on (and/or take home). An interesting perk is the free dessert: the house chocolate yeast cake, served with complimentary tea or coffee.
    Recommended: The stuffed vine leaves and the 12 gods Greek pastry.
    PopUp Wine Bar. Not kosher. 84 Ben Zvi Blvd. Loft 618 (6th floor), Tel Aviv.

    Rova
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    Rova
    Rova
    Rova
    (Photo: Buzzy Gordon)
    Ambiance: Situated on another very busy corner of Dizengoff street (this time at the intersection of Arlozorov), the popular Rova is often jam-packed. Most seating is outside at high tables with hard wooden chairs, where the soundtrack is barely audible. There are also a few low tables with soft seats. Atmosphere is as much that of a typical Tel Aviv bar as a wine bar, and this is indeed reflected in the overall alcoholic beverage selection, which includes imported and domestic beers on tap and in bottles, as well as four specialty cocktails.
    Hours: Open weekdays from 11.00 (with brunch dishes and value lunches served until 16.00) and weekends (Fri-Sat,) from 10.30. Rova closes daily at 02.00 (or until the last customer). Happy hour: Sunday-Thursday, 17.30-20.00 (50% off on alcohol, 20% off on food).
    Wine: The international wine list is in Hebrew only (although the food menu is bilingual), with most wines available by the glass. The red wines are listed by country, with no fewer than six represented, while the rosés are mostly from France. The white wines, also listed by country (with France in the lead again), have an unusual preponderance: they are virtually all dry vintages, with only one semi-dry white.
    Menu: The extensive food menu comprises six sections: Rise and Shine, Tapas (meant to accompany the wine), Salads, Boutique Pizzas, Main courses and Desserts. The English menu is not as updated as often as the Hebrew one, so there are occasional discrepancies. Rova shares its talented chef with the nearby Josephine Baker bar.
    Recommended: Polenta with mushrooms, arugula, truffle oil and Parmesan; Artichoke and Camembert bruschetta; Croissant bread pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
    Rova. Not kosher. 192 Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 913-6732.

    Tasting Room
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    Tasting Room
    Tasting Room
    Tasting Room
    (Photo: Buzzy Gordon )
    Ambiance: From the same folks who bring you the stunning Whiskey Bar and Museum (see the review on these pages), Tasting Room – also in the Sarona Compound, and also certified kosher – features award winning design, There is an outdoor patio cum bar upstairs, while downstairs is furnished with both low tables and chairs and high tables with stools, The surrounding walls are basically a wine cellar, containing close to
    400 bottles of Israeli wines. The atmosphere is livened with a pleasant classic rock soundtrack.
    Hours: Sun-Thurs, 17.00-0.00; Saturdays, 19.00-0.00. Closed Fridays.
    Wine: On any given evening, some 32 vintages are available, dispensed from sophisticated pouring machines operated by a chip-enabled smart card. The eight dispensing stations comprise five stocked with red wines, three with whites one rosé. The helpful wait staff will instruct you on how to select from the three different amounts that will end up in your glass: a taste, half-glass, or a full glass (with corresponding prices clearly indicated on the LED display). There are enough glasses on hand to keep changing to a new one between tastings.
    Menu: The one page bilingual menu features both hot and cold tapas. While nether meat nor poultry is served, there are sufficient vegan/ vegetarian options. There is no formal dessert menu, but your server will explain which two are on offer that evening.
    Recommended: Beet carpaccio, burrata with cherry tomato jam, white fish carpaccio; for dessert; crunchy chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries.
    Tasting Room. Kosher. 36 Eliezer Kaplan St. (Sarona), Tel Aviv. Tel. (077) 231-0431.

    Wine Garden (Pop Up)
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    Wine Garden
    Wine Garden
    Wine Garden
    (Photo: Buzzy Gordon )
    Ambiance: Not to be confused with the downtown Wine Garden TLV (Yayin Bahatzer), the pop-up Wine Garden is a weekly adjunct to the veteran Russian restaurant Baba Yaga. Most of the seating is al fresco, just off the street in a shrubbery-sheltered courtyard, although there is also an adjacent eclosed area, plus a small interior dining room towards the rear of the premises.
    Hours: Tuesday evenings, 19.30-22.30.
    Wine: Each week, a different category of wine is presented, with representative vintages curated from wineries around the world. Complimentary tastings are provided – and explained – by the accomplished resident Russian-American-Israeli sommelier. The concept is meant to introduce people to the relaxing atmosphere of the place, and customers are invited to purchase either glasses or bottles of the wine they have just tasted, but there is no special expectation to do so.
    Menu: This is the most extensive food menu in our list, since the entire restaurant menu – in three languages, displayed electronically – is at your disposal. There are no fewer than six sections: Starters, Salads, Specials, Main Courses (Meat and from the Sea), and Desserts. There are also adequate vegan/vegetarian options. Patrons preferring not to order from the wine tasting offerings may do so from the restaurant’s regular wine list or alcohol menu.
    Recommended: Enjoy Russian specialties such as Forshmak (chopped herring) and Pelmeni (veal dumplings), as well as something different for dessert, the light Bird Milk Cake.
    Wine Garden @ Baba Yaga. Not kosher. 12 HaYarkon St., Tel Aviv. Tel. (03) 517-5179.

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