By Sharon Aharoni
Contributor Sharon Aharoni blogs about the rich culinary scene in Israel and abroad. Here she profiles a popular vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv, Anastasia, and shares their recipe for a creamy and healthful Acai Almond Milk Smoothie. ~ Tori
In a city with no shortage of vegan options, Tel Aviv’s Anastasia really stands out. The restaurant provides vegan and health conscious eaters with a wealth of plant-based options. The rich menu, executed by Chef Shira Gadot, is based on fresh local produce and gives a vegan twist to many loved Israeli dishes.
The vegan way of life is felt in every corner of the restaurant, from posters in the bathroom advocating for veganism, to an employee wearing a t-shirt championing a vegan message. It is clear that unlike some restaurants which prefer using the term “plant based,” Anastasia does not shy away from the vegan agenda.
Anastasia’s shakshuka demonstrates their ability to adapt dishes in a vegan way without compromising on the quality and flavor. The eggs are substituted with tofu and polenta balls, which surprisingly resemble an egg yolk, not only because of their shape and color (from turmeric) — but their flavor too: How, you ask? Their secret is the pungent black Indian salt called kala namak, which gives a slight sulfur flavor, reminiscent of the taste of a real egg.
Another standout dish is their soba noodle salad. The gluten free, buckwheat noodles are paired with all of the best greens: cilantro, broccoli, green beans, kale and scallions. The salad is dressed in a creamy cashew, ginger, sesame oil and chili sauce, topped with a crunchy savory almond crumble.
The restaurant was established three years ago by Tamar Ayalon and Roy Ezer. The duo set out to provide an answer to a burning question: “How to live life without hurting the planet, while still enjoying delicious food?” The restaurant’s vegan menu also has options for raw foodists and people with various dietary restrictions.
The strongest testament to the quality and flavor of the food is the fact that the restaurant is almost always packed; many of the diners are not vegan, they come because the food is phenomenal and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.
Anastasia’s philosophy is that compassion does not stop with animals, it is all encompassing. The restaurant has a communal vibe, and many social activists have found a home there.
Manager Aviv Shalem made certain to emphasize that the restaurant was not meant to be ‘trendy,’ but rather, a place to eat healthy, delicious food that does not harm the environment, first and foremost.
Most of the food is prepared in-house, including the breads, desserts and many of the milks. The food is unprocessed with no sugar or preservatives.
The restaurant is also known for its wide array of smoothies, packed with delicious superfoods and vegan goodness. Here is one of their popular favorites, which they call Acai Milk. This creamy sweet-tart smoothie is made with acai powder, maca powder, fruit and almond milk. Beteavon!
Acai Almond Milk
- 1 1/3 cups banana slices
- 2/3 cup pineapple chunks
- 1 date, pitted, soaked in water for 5 minutes to soften, and drained
- 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tsp maca powder
- 1 tsp acai powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 ice cubes
- Blend all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Serve. Makes roughly 2 1/2 cups of smoothie - two servings of 1 1/4 cup each.
- Note: The original recipe from Anastasia only includes 3 ice cubes. I prefer 8, which gives it a thicker frothier texture.