Located In the lobby of the boutique Mendeli Hotel, Mashya offers modern interpretation of local cuisine and serves Moroccan and mediterranean dishes with a fine, modern touch. The kitchen is headed by Yossi Shitrit, which is also the chef of two other great restaurants in town – Onza and Kitchen Market. Mashya prides itself on using local ingredients, produce and spices with advanced cooking techniques.
If you’re curious, the name is derived from the Hebrew word for mace, the red interior shell of a nutmeg.
We were seated at Mashya’s bar, smack in the middle of the hotel lobby and the atmosphere was light and loose. We were served by Ilana, a cheerful bartender with a positive attitude which not only gave spot-on food recommendations, but was also very welcoming and accommodating throughout the evening. This was quite a refreshing experience, seeing as how lately many Tel Aviv pubs and restaurants seem to exclusively feature judgmental hipsters in their service workforce.
Before ordering food Ilana offered us cocktails. When I mentioned I wasn’t up for alcohol she suggested a virgin cocktail based on a tea brew of hibiscus, cinnamon and clove with orange and honey-water. I was glad to take up her word, because the concoction was simply addictive. I’m talking I-would-buy-gallons-if-I-could tasty.
Following Ilana’s tips we ordered 3 starters, and before they arrived we received appetizers consisting of mini pita-breads with hummus and harissa, a Tunisian hot chilli pepper paste. The size made them look so adorable, and the hummus was not bad at all. Shortly after our starters came in.
A perfect summer dish. Fresh and uplifting with a cooling melon and yuzu sauce.
Originally this dish is served with Figs, but since they were out of season it came with dates and pineapples. This combination sounds weird, but it turns out the pineapple acidity and crunchy texture works well with the sweetness and soft texture of the date. At first sight this dish doesn’t look interesting at all, with only the green leaves visible and all the rest of the ingredients are hidden underneath and reveal themselves with each bite. This isn’t the only time Shitrit uses this trick. It can also be found in Kitchen Market’s cheese cake.
Mafrum is a traditional Tripolitan dish, which is essentially ground beef mixed with vegetables and seasoned with a special spice called “Hararat”. The cauliflower pieces which were filled with ground kebabs had rich tastes. While tasty and interesting, they served as a heavy contrast to our previous light starters.
Along with the starters we had the Prana bread with labane and Matbuha (18₪\$4.5).
We were told the prana bread were to arrive on a stick, but ours arrived flat on a plate. We noticed some other, luckier, patrons which did received the promised stick. We aren’t sure about the source of this stick-based discrimination.
Since the virgin cocktail was a resounding success, I was also curious to taste the tea brew the cocktail was based on (14₪\$3.5). The bartender told us that the brew takes quite some work, with a 24 hour long process. It tasted less sweet than the cocktails and the spices were much more prominent.
The two main courses we ordered were:
“Jerusalem Mix”,amba, pickled eggplants and tahini (78₪\$20)
This was one of the most recommended dishes online so my expectations were set pretty high. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like it; someone in the kitchen took too much liberty with the salt shaker. To be fair, our bartender warned us that there are more interesting dishes on the menu.
Shrimp and calamari “hamed”, Jerusalem artichoke and goat’s milk butter (124₪\$32)
Definitely a highlight of the meal. The seafood was made to perfection and the shrimps were so soft and fun to nibble on. The bitter-ish burnt eggplant sauce strategically lumped on top added another dimension to the bite. The artichoke, bamia and green beans provided more textures and flavors that blended well in the mix.
With the main courses we received two side dishes: Mujaddara with cranberries and black lentils and bulgur with caramelized onions and baharat. Simple and tasty. We struggled to finish them on account of being completely stuffed.
Baked lemon cream, rosemary meringue, white chocolate ganache, mango gel and mint ice cream (48₪\$12.5). This dish has more than beauty to offer. We liked the subtle sweetness and the fact it was very light. The mint ice cream was a clear winner.
Moroccan and mediterranean are usually identified with large pot cooking, with strong flavors and spices thrown haphazardly. You wouldn’t associate the words “fine”, “modern” or “precise” with this type of cooking, and yet Shitrit does exactly that with Mashya’s menu. This is what makes his cuisine so unique – these are the same ingredients, produce and flavors but this time used with a painter’s light brush instead of a carpenter’s paint roller.
We would highly recommend that you visit Mashya regardless of your experience with this type of food. The service and atmosphere form a great dining experience which is only amplified by the well thought of and finely executed menu.
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