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Beyond falafel

Kasha popcorn, shakshuka tartlets spoon up Israel Kitchen Awards

2nd annual culinary excellence event recognizes Michelin-starred Assaf Granit and Uri Navon as best chefs, along with host of inventive kitchens celebrating Middle Eastern cuisine

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Restaurant OCD Tel Aviv won the award for best restaurant in the Israeli Kitchen Awards 2022 (Courtesy OCD Tel Aviv)
Restaurant OCD Tel Aviv won the award for best restaurant in the Israeli Kitchen Awards 2022 (Courtesy OCD Tel Aviv)

Power pair Assaf Granit and Uri Navon of the Machneyuda restaurant group took home the best chef title in the second annual Israel Kitchen Awards, with Raz Rahav’s OCD garnering the award for best restaurant.

The event was created to recognize excellence and creativity in the Israeli kitchen, awarding the chefs, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, culinary experts and growers who contribute to the local culinary culture. It was presented in 2022 by American Express.

Granit and Navon are rock stars on the Israeli culinary scene, with a restaurant empire that includes six Jerusalem locations as well as bistros in London, Berlin, St. Barts and the Michelin-starred Shabour in Paris.

The title for best new restaurant went to Yossi Shitrit’s Hiba in Tel Aviv, which opened last summer with 14 tables and currently has a two-month waiting list for its shakshuka tartlets and caramelized onion foam served in a whole onion.

Shitrit, familiar from reality show “Games of Chefs,” is also known for his previous Tel Aviv restaurants, Mashya, Kitchen Market and Onza.

Best restaurant went to Tel Aviv’s OCD, where chef Raz Rahav is known for first bringing his local flavors and nightly tasting menu to the fore through social media, with a 19-course tasting menu and open kitchen.

Rahav’s menu is influenced by the Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Middle Eastern cuisines with local ingredients drawn from artisanal producers, and offerings such as cauliflower pancakes,  Iraqi mango pickle paste and kasha popcorn.

Chef Yossi Shitrit of Hiba, which won best new restaurant in the 2022 Israeli Kitchen awards (Courtesy Hiba)

Tel Aviv’s Jasmino won the best street food award for its fresh pitot stuffed with spicy beef sausage, veal hearts or lamb and veal kebab as well as grilled onion, and dolloped with tahini and mango-based amba.

There were a few winners outside of Tel Aviv, including the best kosher restaurant, Ashdod’s Pescado, run by chef Yehi Zino and fisherman Eran Jano, with many of the entrees based on raw fish, such as sashimi with tahini and chives, and chunks of wild fish served in a local olive oil confit.

Tel Aviv’s culinary center Asif won the award for the best new project recognizing Israeli food. The center serves as a culinary library, workshop, cafe and shop.

Golan Heights company Ilsar Truffles cultivates black winter truffles using biotechnology (Courtesy Ilsar)

Agrotechnology company Ilsar Truffles from the Golan Heights was named the best new agro food tech, for its biotechnology that cultivates rare black winter truffles.

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