57 Nachalat Binyamin
The conversation started with food and quickly led to things in the realm of personal desires: an array of imaginative ways one could use edible seaweed gelatin, the sweet taste of breast milk, and oysters – succulent, juicy oysters – the aphrodisiac dish often related to various body parts.The ideas that stream through Meir Adoni’s kaleidoscope mind apple influences from every human urge and instinct, leaving us all to agree with Adoni that sex and sexuality influence just about everything we do. So to speak in sexual metaphors, let me tell you about Mizlala, Meir’s newest, hippest, urban bombshell: if Catit (Meir’s freshman restaurant) is the most sensual, romantic night of making sweet, slow love, then Mizlala, is a wild, exciting, heart racing night of pure gratification. Whatever your personal preference, Chef Adoni knows that we all have our guilty pleasures.
Mizlala is located on the eclectic Nachalat Binyamin where fashionable Telalivians come to a street lined with fabric stores, the Levinsky spice market, and weathered buildings, for a swanky night out. There is no doubt that Mizlala fits in with the eccentric neighborhood. Here there is no lack of crazy; sometimes crazy is good and sometimes crazy is crazy but as Adoni states, “My biggest fear is to be boring, I will never be boring.” Certainly Mizlala is anything but boring. In fact, if you are the more “stay at home” type, you’re looking for an easy romantic meal, or you tend to turn your nose up while dissect culinary trivialities in your dish, then I’m sorry to say, Mizlala is not the place for you. With loud music pumping through every corner of the restaurant, large numbers of googly eyed guests congregating in the front foyer, and boisterous groups huddling around tables celebrating some sort of brouhaha, Mizlala is bursting at the seams with exhilarating energy. One comes to Mizlala to set their reservations behind, only to have a good time. In a place with a straightforward atmosphere, one requires only an open mind.
Mizlala’s interior is a minimalist expanse in one of Tel Aviv’s beautifully restored Bauhaus buildings. Stark white walls, simple nude chairs, and polished wooden tables are backed by large windows designed to expose the adjacent graffiti alleyways, which lends to a Banksy-ian feel. The industrial bar is long, making its way from the entrance to an unforeseen place deep into the restaurant. It’s strong presence makes it clear at first sight that Mizlala is a place to drink and eat, like a perfect couple. For Adoni all creative pleasures go hand and hand, and according to his theory drinking a cocktail is not set aside from the meal, yet included with the experience of eating. People are attracted to Mizlala and Meir’s culinary style because they want to push their senses to the limit, tasting their way through uncharted culinary territories, while taking a trip each time they sip one of the signature cocktails.
One glance at the decadent cocktail list, a quick peek at the exotic dinner menu, and its certain that guilty pleasures run rampant here. Even before we settled on entrees we indulged in the “shot and bite” from Mizlala’s bar menu, setting the mood for what would be a festive evening. The “shot and bite” is the bait that instantly seduces the diner. The concept is a bite size portion of a “nightly” dish that’s served alongside a precisely tailored shot. Our first time, we were lucky enough to experience oysters topped with pickled radishes, yuzu, parsley and green onion alongside a shot of Smirnoff vodka. Don’t get skeptical on us, we admit it may not be the most inventive combo ever- but certainly one of the most succulent, balanced, and precious tasting oysters we’ve ever had. The slippery oyster chartered by flavors zesty and sweet, with a tangy finish. Like an incredible kiss, the sensation could of happily lasted forever. As we sucked our oysters, time stood still and the flavors of the gentle sea were prancing in our mouths throughout the meal and into the next day, leaving with us only a blissful memory. Another time we enjoyed whole seared calamari floating on a bed of thick sour cream, juicy mango cubes and watercress, perfectly paired with a straight shot of cold sake. We just loved being pleasantly surprised, and the possibilities are endless.
We couldn’t get over the cocktail menu. Inventive, playful, and one of Tel Aviv’s most intricate, forgoing to drink by a “mixologist” at Mizlala is just not an option. After our shots we indulged in the unforgiving “Grey Fizz”, a surprisingly pleasing combination of gin, earl grey tea, lemon juice and simple syrup. The mad scientist bartender Gil Sabin, seeps earl grey tea leaves in vats of gin for days, percolating their aromatic flavors into the alcohol. The must-try combination of the tea leaves delicate flavors with a hint of lemon and the smooth gin made us wish it was served in a bottomless glass.
Maybe it was the buzz or indecisiveness over the menu, but we found ourselves craving some hearty food and eventually five entrees were ordered, some hot, some cold, one pasta, a salad, and a whole lot of meat. Spicy and full of intense flavor, Adoni certainly delivered dish after dish, odd combinations that left us with intrigue and wonder. Take the steak and eggs, a hearty piece of steak, topped with a poached egg, two thick strips of medium rare bacon, surrounded by a heap of chunky potatoes and topped with a whiskey maple syrup sauce. The dish was the pinnacle of refined “stoner” food. Every craving and culinary desire could be satisfied by one bite. Like a bear hug from a big, burly man- the dish consumed our palate and devoured our senses. Smoky, meaty, salty, and caramel sweet, our taste buds were on one thrilling ride. Yearning for a hearty, yet sophisticated dish? Take a bite from the lamb stuffed calamari, frolicking with smoked eggplant, bulgar wheat, olive oil, cumin, cinnamon, warm chickpeas, hot bacon, and cool dollops of sheep yogurt that blanket long slivers of sweltering okra.
Dish after dish it’s clear that Adoni takes an extreme vision to that of his first dining venture. At Catit ingredients are minimal, dishes are refined, and all requires an extensive amount of compulsive thought. At Mizlala it’s a free for all, and you can see Adoni’s burst with creativeness on each plate. This is illustrated clearly in a dish like the salmon ceviche which contains over twenty ingredients. The dish is an interesting blend of chaos and beauty, ultimately resembling a Jackson Pollock painting, so much color and texture, one could not tell where the dish began and where it ended. Sense of adventure? Take Adoni’s dish of veal brain that pops out from the menu. Croissant “Bolong’ri”, veal brains plated on a bed of tomatoes, smoked peppers, eggplant, potatoes, pickled lemons, a hard boiled egg with a touch of coriander. One thing this dish isn’t, is predictable. Even if you take the most simplest of salads from the menu, it comes with an addicting pull. We ordered the artichoke salad for a simple, satisfying break. During the course of the conversation we munched on the hearty artichokes, the long, crispy hearts of lettuce, the large shavings of Parmesan cheese, the bright pickled egg, all tossed delicately in the addicting Caesar aioli sauce.
It goes without saying that the dessert menu also brings a joyride of romance, adventure, and surprise. Leaving a bit up to the imagination, we cannot leave you without insisting you feast your sweet tooth on the mix of the coffee and brandy foam with a sea salt caramel terra cotta and dark chocolate souffle complete with an alibaba dropper, so you may inject your dessert with the tart raspberry sauce.
Late in the evening, after we’re satisfyingly stuffed and buzzed, Adoni himself arrives at our table. Having put in another eighteen-hour day he shows little sign of fatigue. With his eyes bulging out of their sockets and his mouth moving a mile a minute, it appears the wheels in Adoni’s mind never stop spinning. We speak about the past, his long resume and experience in just about every acclaimed restaurant in all the notable cities, his drive for cooking from a young age, and his child hood growing up with loving parents who forbade any sex related talk at home-it’s no wonder Adoni is so expressive today. Although Mizlala is just two months old Adoni speaks of what’s next, perhaps more travels and a restaurant in New York. Nothing is safe from his influence: art, sex, family, culture, the Middle East and, of course, his mother, a Moroccan woman to which he credits his basic knowledge of food. When we try and challenge Adoni by asking him if he’d prefer dinner at Mizlala or Catit, the corners of his mouth turn upwards and he answers from the heart, “If you ask me at any time where I could have dinner anywhere in the world, I would say I want to have dinner at my mothers.” Yes, it’s this strong, resilient, and savvy, Moroccan woman that taught her son everything there is to know about cooking, “from picking the right eggplant at the market,” to properly frying an onion. Moroccan cooking can be a lengthy process as each dish takes a series of complicated steps. When practicing the culinary art under a cuisine such as this, it is an effective way to learn many of the fundamentals of cooking. Adoni’s mother taught him right, cooking is not just a way into a man’s heart, but a way into any person’s heart. It’s a way to capture a piece of someone, to fulfill them. So when Adoni tells us his “life” is based solely around cooking it’s completely believable. His life happens to be based around his passion and that’s what drives him. In his humble, frantic approach, it’s certain that Adoni’s love for food is pure… today in a world of food channels immortalizing the industry and egocentric rock star chefs focused less on food and more on fame, it’s rare to find someone with pure and humble passion for his art. Meir Adoni is genuine, he’s devoted to quality and customer satisfaction. When all is said and done, it is this sense of approachability that leads Adoni to his unadulterated success, like his food, he’s unique and unforgettable.