il Caffe Yaffo

Located just at the edge of Shuk HaPishpishim, Cafe Yaffo invites you to an Italian/Japanese/Middle Eastern dining experience. Lindsay Citerman samples some of their specialties.

Caffe Yaffo is a quiet little restaurant from the outside, situated in a far corner of Shuk HaPishpishim. Well lit from the outside, tables are situated along the sidewalks, as with all of the market restaurants, and the inside seems to fit the décor as well. Filled with antiques, funky wallpaper, a sushi station in one corner and a small stage next to the window, quiet jazz playing in the background, it is both inviting and feels warm on a chilly Tel Aviv winter night.

The menu is quite massive, offering a variety of Italian-style pastas, pizzas and focaccias as well as Middle Eastern treats. On the far wall, one’s eye is automatically drawn to a funky Japanese station on the far wall, complete with a sushi chef, Japanese style dishes and another menu to choose from. Sushi Yaffo at Café Yaffo, they call it. In addition to all of this, they make their own delicious ice cream, which is not to be missed after a filling meal.

As we poured over the menu, we felt that the best option would be to ask the waitress about some of the restaurant’s unique specialties. The menu even denotes a few recommended dishes, such as the gnocchi in walnut cream sauce. This dish was a lovely surprise as we expected as heavy dish, wondering if we would enjoy it being not such fans of cream sauce. However, the gnocchi were light and the sauce was a delicate balance of ground walnuts and a light touch of cream with fresh herbs.

Another recommended specialty was the Tilapia filet with onions, mushrooms and zucchini in cream sauce served with Basmati rice. The filet was perfectly prepared with a light crisp to the skin side. Orit and I both noted the delicious zucchini flavor coming from the tiny chunks in the sauce, yet another surprisingly light cream base.

In tides with the Italian flair of the restaurant, we enjoyed our salad later in our meal. We ordered the premier salad, which was a fantastic choice. A massive bowl of baby lettuces and fruits arrived with healthy chunks of goat cheese and chopped walnuts strewn on top. It was dressed in refreshing citrus vinaigrette dressing. We devoured every bite of this salad. Our main dishes had also arrived with a small side salad, which we also sampled, mix of incredibly fresh lettuces, peppers and carrots in a dill yogurt dressing.

At this point, already quite satisfied with the massive portions, we took a look at the Sushi menu that we would not have room to sample from. Sushi Yaffo is kosher and offers a fully menu of traditional Japanese appetizers, special rolls, combinations and make-your-own available for both take-away and delivery as well as in-house dining.

Our waitress also recommended that we sample some of the restaurant’s specialty ice creams, such as “cookie-man,” orange chocolate, halva and snickers. Even I had to admit that this ice cream was delicious and I am not usually a great fan. This was potentially the best version of halva ice cream I have ever had. Orit enjoyed both the cookie-man and the snickers. As our evening came to an end, the band for the evening was just starting up. This evening was classic world music but we have heard from reliable sources that this stage is often full with delightful music, often inspiring the tables to disappear and make way for the dancers.