Almah Beach, Tel Aviv 63305, Israel
Hours: Sun – Sat 9:00 am – 12:00 pm & 12:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri – Sat 1:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Phone number: 972-03-5174773
Sixteen years ago, long-time restaurateur Ofra Ganor opened local gem, Manta Ray. Built around a beautiful bar, Manta Ray is an exquisite restaurant in Tel Aviv offering Mediterranean cuisine. Between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, with a gorgeous view of Alma Beach, Manta Ray is truly a haven where locals and tourists alike can escape the bustling city.
Manta Ray is a family affair. From her photographer husband Avi’s black and white photographs of their children, Tamara and Uriah, whom I mistook for models, to their frequent presence at the restaurant, Ofra’s family is evidently an inspiration and muse.
The details in the atmosphere give the restaurant its character. The reggae music along with the wooden floors, woven chairs, and blue turquoise table legs draw in the relaxed vibe from the beach. Vases of lemons, waiting to be squeezed into their famous Lemonade Margarita, sit stacked on antique shelves. White tablecloths add a classy touch to the relaxed beach feel. For those who enjoy the cool breeze, the outdoor seating is a prime spot to watch the beachgoers surf, the waves crash, and the sun set.
Despite the relaxed vibe, Manta Ray does not skimp on service. Arguably the best service I have received during my Tel Aviv restaurant adventure, the waitresses were prompt and polite. Too often, I feel the drought of the Israeli desert creep into restaurants, my thirst not quenched by the tiny water glass sitting empty in front of me. Here, within seconds and without request, I had a giant, metal pitcher of ice-cold water at my disposal.
The setting sets the stage, but Chef Ronen Skinezis puts on an amazing culinary show. Known for his mezze plates with 13 varieties of seafood, fish, meat and vegetables, Ronen creates options for even the fussiest of eaters. My dining companion, a vegan, lit up as she viewed the menu. Unlike many restaurants in Tel Aviv, Manta Ray has a separate vegetarian menu. We ordered the okra and tomato mezze, in an attempt to be “healthy” and not fill up on bread. The cold stew was bursting with a refreshing tartness and unexpected complexity. Salsa-like and light yet flavorful, we finished the mezze within seconds.
Of course, our attempt to avoid the bread failed as, one by one, the piping hot, beautiful, aromatic loaves passed by our table and captured our attention. Our willpower short lived; we caved, ordered, and finished the entire loaf of Balkan Bread, with no regrets. The homemade delicacy, crispy on the outside, soft inside and decorated with a drizzle of quality olive oil, was nothing short of perfection.
Sigal, the manager, explained to us that the often-changing menu is very seasonal because the fish is always fresh. In the winter months, the Bouillabaisse Seafood and Fish Bisque is a menu highlight. The summer special is the Grouper Fillet. Flavorful, and seasoned to perfection, it is a summer must. For good reason, one of the most popular dishes on the menu is the Sharing Seafood, an Asian- inspired, iron pot of mussels, shrimp, and crabs, along with vibrant sweet potato and juicy, grilled pineapple, “swimming” in a sweet coconut milk, and exquisitely flavored with lemon grass, ginger, and curry.
Manta Ray is nothing short of an oasis formed by the crossroads, where old meets new, tourist meets local, beach relaxation meets dining sophistication, and, of course, Jaffa meets Tel Aviv.
by Stacy Blumenreich