Asi’s favourite restaurants are those where 20 types of salads are set out on the table even before one says hello. My opinion on these types of restaurants is a bit more ambivalent. On one hand, I really love appetizers, and salads are a type of appetizer; on the other hand, I always fill up on the salads really quickly and then I can’t enjoy the main dish. No more than 2 minutes passed from the time we sat down at Hazaken Vehayam (The Old Man and the Sea) before our table was filled with dozens of little dishes. Asi sat back comfortably in his seat, but I started getting nervous. It all looked so tasty – how on earth would I save any space!?!
Hazaken Vehayam (The Old Man and the Sea), as you might imagine, is located right on the sea. It’s a very large restaurant with tons of waiters running around – enough so that there isn’t even a small chance that if you need something one of them won’t immediately notice and get right on top of it. Our waiter noticed my case of nerves, and apparently interpreted them to be related to the pita shortage on our table, because he immediately placed a basket of special large and fresh pitas amongst the salads. That’s it, I decided, I’m giving up. There’s no point in trying to fight it – it’s stronger than I am. I decided to dig in. There was cabbage salad, eggplant salad, wonderful tehina, fried cabbage, excellent homemade hummus, falafel, tabouleh, beet salad, green salad, mushroom salad, vegetable salad in tehina, fennel salad, and a number of others. We piled more and more onto pieces of the tasty pita and the moment any one of the little dishes emptied, a full one was immediately delivered – automatically, without having to ask.
When it came to ordering mains, Asi didn’t even entertain the notion of stepping out of his comfort zone and asked for the spring chicken skewer. I got a recommendation for the filet, and despite my fear of an overstuffed belly, I agreed. In the meantime, until the dishes arrived, it was us and the salads. And every moment that they remained on the table was another moment that we couldn’t leave them alone.
We arrived late in the afternoon and sat in the shade, so as not to bake in the sun streaming in through the huge window overlooking the sea. As our mains arrived we understood that there would be no escaping from the breathtaking sunset: the entire window was an array of pinks and blues and the rest of the diners enjoyed the spectacular view as much as we did. We continued enjoying as our mains arrived: when it came to his spring chicken skewer, Asi declared it ‘the best’ – and we are talking about a guy who is an expert on Middle Eastern style grill houses in the city and has eaten more than his fair share of spring chicken skewers in his day – so he can most certainly be trusted. I ate the tender and tasty filet of beef, which settled into my stomach as if it weren’t already full of dozens of types of salads. The filet was delicate, not too heavy, well cooked and very tasty. There is no need to point out the relief I felt at having accomplished my mission! I, for the first time ever, didn’t fill up on the salads alone!
Hazaken Vehayam (The Old Man and the Sea) is a Jaffa institution. The napkins, sugar packets and even the wet naps they brought us after the meal bore the name of the restaurant – a restaurant well-known to Asi who had been waiting for just the right invitation to pay them a visit. It’s true that you need to know your way around Jaffa’s alleyways just a little in order to find it (though being so large, once you near, there’s no mistaking it), but once you do find it – well, what a find it is. And don’t miss the sunset!
Hazaken Vehayam (The Old Man and the Sea)
83 Kedem Street, Jaffa, Tel Aviv