Tel Aviv has garnered a reputation as the “Vegan Capital of the World”, a destination for vegan travelers seeking the ultimate plant-based getaway. Offering over 400 vegan-friendly or entirely vegan restaurants, cafes and shops, Tel Aviv is no doubt a vegan paradise. Tucked away in the Levinsky Market in southern Tel Aviv, Opa, is a trailblazer in vegan cuisine, offering innovative and creative plant-based dishes.
Opa, which means grandfather in German, is named in honor of the grandfather of chef Shirel Berger. Paying homage to her roots, the restaurant was named for the man who also owned a restaurant in the past and a commitment to tradition.
However, the dishes at Opa are anything but traditional. Chef Shirel Berger has taken her passion for plant-based cooking and transformed the vegan dining experience one dish at a time at Opa. The decor is simple, minimalistic and elegant, maintaining clean lines and warmth in neutral tones, allowing the food to take the spotlight. The restaurant itself is quite small, creating an intimate environment for diners, and almost every seat has a vantage point of the kitchen, where the magic happens. Sitting on the bar is a special experience where the combination of chefs and bartenders work in tandem, creating a performance-like dining experience.
Sharing is Caring
Menus are also offered in Hebrew and English and the servers are welcoming, knowledgable and kind in explaining the concept of the menu and dishes. It is recommended to take the tasting menu, a comprehensive selection of eight dishes, and bread, that are served in the order in which the chef desires. For a couple, each dish is shared, and although the portions are small, they are satisfying. For a larger group, it is recommended to order several tasting menus, but the concept is still to share the dishes and the experience.
As the dinner crowd trickles in, service begins and beautifully plated dishes will emerge from the kitchen. First, bread is served a thick sourdough bread, warmed to perfection and drizzled with garlic olive oil, an ideal complement to each dish that will arrive next. The menu itself changes approximately every three weeks, which allows Chef Berger to push her creativity and offer new samplings based on what is in season. Given that the entire menu is plant-based, the dishes are very much seasonal, showcasing whatever produce is ripe and ready.
One highlight is the Pear (48 nis), a combination of sweet and salty, beautifully plated pear slices served green garlic, chervil leaves, and a dash of unique pear vinegar. The Fava (42 nis), a seasonal dish combining fresh fava beans with za’atar served with field strawberries and pomelo gel is a nuanced dish that is rich and savory, yet delicate. Perhaps the most impressive and popular dish is the King Trumpet (66 nis), a beautiful display of seasonal Oyster mushrooms, served on a shitake puree with crunchy tapioca chips and deep-fried sage leaves. The dish is one of the stars of the tasting menu and highlights the simplicity of the ingredients and the depth of their flavor.
Refined flavors and impressive textures
What makes the dishes are OPA particularly unique is the technique and care that is infused into each plate. OPA pushes the boundaries on vegan cuisine, developing refined flavors and more impressively textures that are not often considered in plant-based food. Take the Kohlrabi (42 nis), which offers dehydrated kohlrabi, thinly sliced and slow-cooked for 30 hours, served with pickled shallots, mustard, caraway seeds, and fermented cabbage sauce. Combined, the ingredients bring new life to a vegetable that is rarely plated as the main dish, in an imaginative way. The Red Cabbage (67 nis) is another highlight, cooked to perfection and served in white balsamic, with almonds and grapefruit foam it elevates the cabbage and is intensely satisfying.
For dessert, the tasting menu offers two dessert options, both of which are indulgent yet refreshing. Like the dishes, dessert options rotate based on seasonality and ripeness. One dish is chocolate ganache served with orange and the other is a lemon sorbet served with white balsamic and strawberries. The tasting menu includes all the courses and one dessert, for 340 nis per couple. For those feeling extra decadent, ordering both desserts is the best way to pick a favorite!
Opa is innovative, inviting and raising the bar not only on vegan dining in Tel Aviv but in culinary experiences for all types of diners. Opa is a perfect spot for a date night, dinner with friends or a special occasion. The mood is intimate and engaging and is a dining experience unto itself. Opa is only open for dinner service, starting at 19:00. Given the small setting, reservations are highly recommended.