November 2014 update
You have to visit Caffè Yaffo in Jaffa's Flea Market (Hebrew: Shuk Hapishpeshim) several times a year to keep up with the ongoing evolution of this restaurant. eLuna.com revisited this restaurant in November to see its latest transformation for ourselves.eLuna has been tracking this restaurant, now in its 7th year, and we have seen the improvements.
Caffè Yaffo is one of several trendy restaurants on Olei Tzion and neighboring streets, but it is the only kosher restaurant. After dark the Jaffa flea market transforms into a hopping entertainment area. The well-lit streets and busy restaurants create a festive atmosphere. Several of the shops near the restaurants remain open in the evening to to capture some of the restaurant traffic. You gotta see it to believe it.
The new innovations at Caffè Yaffo include a new private room for smachot of up to 35 guests. It has its own sound system and projection equipment. It also has its own entrance, so your guests will never even notice the full restaurant on the other side of the movable wall. The main dining area has been reworked to include smaller tables that can be moved together for larger parties. The menu now includes a section of vegan, gluten-free and health dishes. .
The Cafe Yaffo Menu
We have always enjoyed the food at Caffè Yaffo, rich in vegetable and dairy dishes. Pizzas and fresh breads are made fresh in the Tabun oven. Menu items include breakfasts, salads, sandwiches, pasta, fish and several health foods.
Nir and Orna Givon, the dynamic and energetic team that owns and runs this restaurant listen to their customers. Following requests from their health-minded guests, several vegan and gluten-free dishes were added to the menu. We were determined to try some of these dishes on this visit to the restaurant.
For our starter I had the popular mushrooms stir fried in garlic and olive oil topped with Parmesan cheese. It was easy to see why this dish is so popular. My companion had the ravioli filled with goat cheese, served with a red sauce. The sauce, made from sun dried tomato butter garnished with pine nuts, has a kick. A dab of chili, which gives that dish a zing.
For our main courses we had one fish dish and one of the vegan dishes. The Corvina fillet was two fish fillets on a bed of lentils in a white wine and cream sauce flavored with garlic. The lentils were a great match for the fish. This is a much more creative way to serve fish than mashed potatoes and greens. But the parve lentil meat ball dish was the highlight of this visit, and the new signature dish at Caffè Yaffo. These meatless meat balls are served on a bed of rice topped with tomato sauce. Techina can be poured over the dish for added flavor, though it is tasty enough without.. This filling dish is offset by a diced vegetable salad.
For drinks, the restaurant suggested Shandy: beer mixed with sprite (or ginger ale), something that we had not thought about since our college days. That's going back a bit. There is a full bar with a menu of cocktails, something we will have to try when we are not driving.
I dare you to eat a dessert after the lentil meatball dish. Impossible. The list of desserts is long and enticing, and includes Belgian waffles, ice cream sundae, and more . We were not up for dessert after all the food. There are so many other things to try, our next visit will be very soon.
Vegan lentil meatballs: NIS 56, fish: NIS 92. Ravioli with salad: NIS 58. Stir Fried Mushrooms: NIS 49.
More about Caffè Yaffo
Caffè Yaffo is a corner restaurant at the center of the Jaffa restaurant scene. There is plenty of seating inside and additional seating outside (weather permitting). The unique and creative interior design is 60's retro. Bright colors, large prints, and clever-kitch lamps and other accessories makes this a fun and very different kind of cafe/restaurant.
Nir and Orna are Jaffa chauvinist, and Jaffa could not find better PR. The restaurant runs tours of Jaffa, lectures and cultural events all celebrating Jaffa. Foremost is the live musical entertainment every week. We missed it on this visit, but we have had the pleasure of hearing a group singing Mediterranean and Greek music and other entertainers singing songs of the 60's. Note: the performance begins after 9pm and there is a cover charge.
Picture this: The main dining area is cozy and seats about 50 - 60 guests. The group of 4 - 5 perform on a low dais at the front. You can practically reach your hand out and touch the instruments. Lights are dimmed, the food and drink flow. It is a private concert. Just wonderful. All we could think of was who we want to invite to join us on our next visit to the restaurant.
More highlights: On Friday Caffè Yaffo offers a buffet all day. The eLuna discount does not apply.
Getting There: Olei Zion Street was once the main road from the Jaffa sea port to Jerusalem. Olei Zion cuts east/west across the lower part of Tel-Aviv/Yaffo, turning into Kibbutz Galuyot Blvd at the eastern end. There is free street parking after 7pm.
Parking: There is street parking in the evening and a pay parking lot around the corner. Turn at the corner just after the restaurant and see the entrance to the lot squeezed between two buildings on the next block.