Sun-Thurs 12:30-1; Fri 15:30-24; Sat evening-1
Since 1977, Hungarian Blintzes has been treating locals and tourists alike to a unique fusion of a Hungarian staple with Israeli flavor. Even Hungarian natives admit that you won’t find most of these menu items on a traditional blintzes menu. Keeping a restaurant open for over 30 years is no easy feat in Tel Aviv– a testament to this establishment’s success and charm.
Hungarian Blintzes offers diners three different types of blintzes to choose from: savory, sweet, and desserts. The savory menu includes options such as; white and salted cheese coated with sour cream and kashkeval, baked eggplant and salted cheese with sour cream and kashkeval, spiced spinach with eggplant and paprika, and of course the more traditional potatoes and paprika blintzes. For those of us with sweeter appetites, try the chocolate white cheese and raisins, poppy seed cream, or the popular bowl of sliced blintzes and chocolate cream with nuts flambé. And if you didn’t have your fill of blintzes during the main course, any of the following blintz options make for an excellent dessert: chocolate whipped cream and nut cream, apples in cream, or the whipped vanilla cream and banana.
My visit to Hungarian Blintzes felt like nothing more than a visit to grandma’s for a night with family and friends. This is partially due to the traditional Hungarian décor which you will find in most Israeli homes of older residents who immigrated to Israel in the 1940’s and 1950’s straight from Europe. The tables are covered with authentic Hungarian tablecloths that you can just as easily picture as your “babushka’s” head covering. The lamps are actually red crystal vases that are reminiscent of treasures you might find in your grandparents’ china cabinet. There is enough room to comfortably seat approximately fifty diners, both inside the cozy dining room and outside on the refreshing sidewalk just meters away from Dizengoff’s busy streets.
The family atmosphere at Hungarian Blintzes is entirely due to the staff. Owner and manager, Avi, has been working at Hungarian Blintzes for the past 20 years. His Russian parents ran the restaurant before him and can still be found tasting items and contributing to recipes from behind the exposed kitchen counter. Being born in Israel and raised by Europeans, Avi represents his food as much as the menu items represent him. His parents taught him everything he knows about Hungarian cooking, and you can taste the care with which he prepared each and every menu item, as if it came from his own kitchen. However, since Avi was raised in Israel, he is able to infuse each blintz with Mediterranean flavors that you won’t find in any other part of the world.
I sat with Avi and some of the staff over a hot eggplant and spinach blintz that was nothing like the bland blintzes I grew up eating. The ipad-sized dish came out of kitchen scorching hot, so that I could see and smell the blend of aromas and flavors rising off the top. I can only assume that there were two blintzes on my plate, as that is what the menu promises. But where one giant blintz began and the other one ended, I simply could not tell you; the meal was covered in a generous serving of salty melted cheese that was more reminiscent of lasagna. The blintz shell underneath was soft and porous, allowing all the flavors to blend into one another. My first cut into the food revealed a predominance of spinach and cheese, which left my palate shocked with my first bite– a perfect flavor combination of spinach and eggplant ensued.
We also indulged in onion soup, the likes of which I have never experienced. At first glance, I could not have guessed at the flavor of my soup, since it came out thick and orange, sprinkled with cheese and croutons. But after one spoonful it was clear to me that this was nothing short of ordinary. The soft onions dissolved in my mouth and mingled among the other fresh vegetable flavors that had been blended and packed into the soup. My only regret is that I couldn’t drink this with a ladle.
During my meal, Avi poured two glasses of chilled white wine; one for me and one for himself. It only took a few minutes before we were laughing about our unique backgrounds and of course, talking about love- love of food, love of Israel, love of travel and lovers gone. Avi didn’t hesitate to listen to my stories, offer up several of his own, and provide many laughs. I would say this was a unique experience, but Avi actually makes an effort to get to know all of his diners, making the Hungarian Blintzes experience feel that much more like home.
Soon enough, we were drinking homemade liquor (thick eggnog, decadent chocolate, and refreshingly sweet limoncello, which is available for purchase by the shot or by the bottle) and dipping our spoons into a chocolate blintz. The dessert had the same texture as a rolled up crepe, that oozed a creamy chocolate filling with every forkful. Naturally, no chocolate dessert is complete without vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream, of which there were large dollops on either side of my blintz. Even before my meal was finished, I was planning my return to Avi’s restaurant.
So for a night on the town, head over to Hungarian Blintzes, where you will find a small restaurant packed with youthful energy and the only Israeli-Hungarian blintzes in the world. The portion sizes are large enough to order many options and split them among friends. And the prices are equally as fair, ranging from 39-54 NIS—a bargain considering that you won’t find this type of menu anywhere else in the world. You can end your evening with a nightcap in any bar on the nearby Dizengoff Street, but I have a hunch that like me, you will want to stay at Hungarian Blintzes until the Slivovitz is empty.
Written by Jessica Hochstadt
Photos: Karen Cohen