But spend an evening at Hatraklin in Tel Aviv and there's no telling where your thoughts will roam, because not only will you be ensconced in one of the most atmospheric restaurants around, but you will also be surrounded by more bottles of amazing Israeli wine than you can count. But worry not, sommelier and owner Yossi Ben-Odis will steer you in the right direction before you drink so much that you start fantasizing about a duet between Gaga and Donna Summer (though it's not unthinkable).
Let's start with the setting: no. 41 Nahalat Binyamin is in the heart of one of the trendiest dining and nightlife thoroughfares in Tel Aviv. Normally trendy does not spell the most memorable of dining experiences, but here you've got a notable exception. With its high ceilings, soft industrial lighting and square bar, I was instantly transported to Paris and those convincing imitations of Paris brasseries one finds in New York. But one glance around the room and I saw good-looking people who were mostly not overweight, who spoke mostly Hebrew, and contributed to an aura that was, I had to admit it, distinctly sexy.
My meal began, logically enough, with wine. Yossi, the least pretentious wine guy I have ever met (and I've been to New Jersey), served me a glass of Asif white. This is a wine that comes from a vineyard in the Negev Desert overseen by two rabbis, and though it's not officially kosher, its sweet bouquet was certainly kosher by me, and an entire bottle would have been more than welcome.
However, before I could get to the second glass, gentle Chef Moses Yohanan intervened with some hearty pate and crusty delicious bread right out of the taboon oven. Some red wine from the Dadah Winery, on the western slopes of Mount Carmel near Haifa, followed.
And then, it's as if some culinary deity on high looked down upon my humble spot at the bar and decreed, "Let there be meat." And meat there was.