Let’s begin with a short definition. The modern term ‘restobar’ refers to an establishment with a bar-like atmosphere (connoting hipness, dim lighting and happening music) that is actually a full-fledged restaurant. The Tel Aviv incarnation also usually includes a long wide bar suitable for dining and a certain level of chicy pretension. Despite the pretension, Idan and I love restobars because they provide each of us with what we like best – a seat on the bar with a tumbler of whiskey (Idan) and a nice dinner out (me). Betty Ford – which most certainly falls under the definition of restobar, but is self-described as a ‘bistro-bar’, provides us both with our favorites – minus the pretentions.
Since taking over ownership 2 years ago, brothers Ohad and Ziv have changed little in terms of design or feel. But was has changed is the menu and the price list. Defining themselves as a bistro-bar rather than restobar is no accident. The idea is to offer a wide range of alcohol at extremely reasonable prices, making Betty Ford a down to earth locale for one and all. The same is true of the menu, consisting of either ‘small’ or ‘big’ dishes created by Chef Ziv (who also took the liberty of removing all non-kosher foods from the menu – no pork, no seafood). This small-big menu setup allows customers to enjoy inventive and tasty munchies like a 125-gram mini burger, beer battered cauliflower and liver pate for around NIS 20 to 30. Hungrier revelers can enjoy dishes off the ‘big’ menu like the mixed grill, chicken wings or the roast beef sandwich, for less than NIS 55.
We started off our night at the bar. Groovy beats were playing and an appealing list of whisky specials was placed before us. Idan chose a glass of Yellow Label Wild Turkey because this is the only bar in Tel Aviv where you can get it. I chose Martini Bianco on ice with lemon because I like that I can get it at every bar in Tel Aviv.
As Idan raved about how excellent the Yellow Lable is, we started in on the ‘resto’ part of the evening with risotto and parmesan balls, battered green olives and the merquez sausages. Rich, creamy and flash fried, the parmesan balls were the perfect naughty bistro-bar treat. The olives were also tasty. So tasty in fact that even though I despise olives I found myself picking off the crisp batter – shocking lack of table manners, I know, but hey, we were sitting at a bar, not a table. We both loved the super juicy and bursting with flavour sausages and also liked the fact that they were accompanied by a mound of pickled vegetables – great for continued bar snacking, but lighter than French fries.
We sipped, we supped and just as our mains arrived, the live jazz trio started to play. A funky little trio, they were perfectly suited to the narrow space. As we dug into the mini burger and the house special lamb kebab patties with a chopped vegetable salad and green tehina the bartender brought over another Betty Ford special – a ‘biraleh’. I’ll explain: ‘Bira’ means (yes you guessed it), beer in Hebrew. The ‘leh’ is a form of diminutive – like calling a guy named Mike, Mikey. Where am I going with this language lesson, you ask. Well, the ‘biraleh’ is a mini-pint of Paulaner beer, sold as an accompaniment to whiskey for only NIS 5/7. Instead of ordering a whole pint and getting a shot of whisky as a chaser, here you order a proper portion of whiskey and get this mini beer as your chaser. Clever, no. Struggling to finish off our meaty mains with not much room left for filling beer, we certainly thought it was.
With a little ‘biraleh’ under our belts, there was still room for dessert. And thank goodness for that because the chocolate spoonful is such a charming little dessert. Literally, a very heaping tablespoon of rich chocolate mousse (proper creamy chocolate mousse) topped with crunchy little bits of honey-flavoured nougat.
‘So, did you have a nice time’, I asked Idan, as we stumbled, stuffed and tipsy, out onto the street. ‘Indeed’, he replied, smiling and ever so slightly rosy cheeked, ‘I’m over those over-priced restobars, it’s all about the bistro-bar!’ And there you have it.
48 Nachlat Binyamin St., Tel Aviv.