I grew up in a house which could serve as the perfect example to the Israeli/Jewish relationship to pork: my dad loves pork (mainly prosciutto) and finds no shame in the latter, my mom, however, who also loves pork (also of the prosciutto variety) will vehemently deny this if you ask her – why, I don’t know.
I remember when I was a little kid my maternal grandfather used to reminisce about eating pork fat drippings (speck) on a piece of crusty bread – something he gave up when he married my grandmother (who came from a religious family, and while she claimed to be an atheist after Auschwitz – ho wouldn’t – wouldn’t be caught dead with pork in the house). Needless to say, as a child I found this all very confusing. The first time I ate pork (Ham to be precise) I was sick for days (definitely psychosomatic), but as a teenager I realized what I was missing out. Today I am in lovemwith the other white meat (my flexitarian dictionary says pork is a vegetable).
I discovered Hahlutzim 3 on Instagram and decided we should check it out. Turns out they’ve been open for two months and had just returned from a slow food conference in Turin, Italy (cue Pavlovian response). I wanted to order everything off the menu, but since the mister doesn’t eat seafood or pork and (sometimes) it’s nice to share food we reached a compromise (sort of).
Thinly sliced tongue in vinaigrette: Capers, did someone say caper and parsley, green onion and hot peppers (oh my). Served with a few chunks of bread to lovingly shovel the thinly sliced pieces of tongue into your mouth. I’m currently reliving my childhood love for tongue (which I stopped eating when I discovered it was ACTUALLY tongue) and eat it at every opportunity possible. I love the taste of offal meat and the tongue here isn’t masked with lots of sauce, but rather is beautifully highlighted with the tangy vinaigrette. I was more than happy when the mister decided the slow-cooked tongue just wasn’t for him (so much for sharing).
Bresola: The air-dried salted beef was sliced so thinly that you could see right through it onto the plate. Drizzled with just the right amount of olive oil and seasoning it was amazing to watch them slice it (granted on some fancy slicer in front of us) and almost too beautiful to eat it as it was so beautifully presented. Don’t worry, we cleaned the plate and the mister would have licked the plate if I had let him…
Challah stuffed with pork: When the chef Eitan Vanunu created this dish Jewish grandmothers around the world groaned and rolled over in their graves. This dish is beautiful, nothing less than a slice of heaven. A thick piece of challah hollowed out and piled high with chunks of pork and then drizzled with what I believe to be the tastiest jus I have ever had in my life. If I could i would eat this every week. The only “bad” thing I have to say is just that the velvety richness of the pork could have been cut nicely with a small arugula salad.
Corned beef open faced sandwich: Warm corned beef, served open faced with aioli, radish, hot peppers and coriander, served with a side salad of romaine lettuce. The mister talked about this for days, enough said. (And I stole some of his lettuce to cut the richness of my challah and pork dish).
Spanish potatoes: This is that “patatas bravas” dish we’ve become so accustomed to in the millions of tapas places still on trend around the world. And with all due respect (and there is, I do like my patatas bravas) this blows them out of the water. It’s the simplicity in the dish that won me over: Boiled potatoes, mashed right there is front of you still in their skin and all (best part of the potato), drizzled (very) generously in olive oil, sprinkled with Spanish paprika and sea salt and voila – magic on a plate.
N’duja: Since Hahlutzm 3 is one of those small places where those lucky enough to get a seat on the bar get a free show included in their dinner – that is, sitting on the tiny kitchen – I had the opportunity to chit chat with Eitan and Na’ama the owners. As we sat there, Eitan was spreading some of this stuff onto some crostini and I had to ask him what it was since I had never seen it before. He handed me a taste of the spicy spread of pork and hot peppers from Calabria and you seriously HAVE to taste this.
Valrhona Chocolate Mousse: My husband was diagnosed with Diabetes when he was 27 and while he doesn’t have much of sweet tooth chocolate mousse is his Kryptonite. So while I’m often craving some other desert on the menu we usually order chocolate mousse when it’s there – more often than not I am not too happy with the result – seriously chocolate mousse is usually meh and lacking in texture (love those textures). This, however, is a whole different playing field. This mousse is left “chunky” on purpose and is sprinkled with roughly ground coffee and extra pieces of chocolate on top – not too sweet and not too bitter with hints of Brandy. A lovely way to end the evening and as an accompaniment to the French Press.
Final tally: Onze (11) points (out of a possible 12)
If you’re just popping by for a drink, I found it difficult hard to resist their olives (homemade) and chunks of Parmesan – but in my opinion you’d be making a huge mistake not to try some of their amazing food.
While this place isn’t “on trend” (ugh, shudder, I hate that word) – it’s clearly built on a love for food (something which I completely understand) and that’s obviously working for it. Unfortunately I forgot to take the bill with us, but generally we found the plates to be not overpriced and the hand-picked wine list to offer an option in every price range. While I hate the idea of it being difficult to get a table here I want them to be around for the long haul so I HIGHLY recommend you stop by Hahalutzim 3, conveniently located on Hahlutzim 3 close to the Levinski market in Tel Aviv.