Led by chef Guy Arish, Santi is neither a restaurant, nor a wine bar, nor a gastro pub. Creativity is the name of the game for the young chef. Raised by gastronome parents in Paris, by the age of six, Arish had been introduced to oysters and escargot, as well as traditional Tunisian cuisine, and began formulating his unique culinary fingerprint.
Few venues manage to exude a sense of intimate exclusivity merged with a more casual home feel to it the way Santi does. Elegant yet laid back, its natural stone and traditional archways complement modern furnishings. With a cosy conservatory, guests can feel the essence of Tel Aviv’s street life while inside. The dining area is accented by a central seating island surrounded by smaller tables, each space with its own vibe.
Food and drink
Arish’s diverse influences are apparent from the menu, blending flavours from the region and Europe with his unique touch. Every mouthful is a taste explosion. There is no surprise that the Spanish mackerel with a beurre noisette served with a chicken wing garum is one of the best sellers, but the raw crystal shrimps with chickpea shoyu is melt-in-the-mouth freshness. The starters are a mix of raw and cooked, and the sashimi is not only as fresh as it comes, but is also presented as a work of art almost too good to eat. From the hibachi grill, the celeriac with black truffles elevates this simple vegetable to another level while the wagyu sirloin on brioche with kimchi is like nothing I have ever tasted before. Even the fried brioche it is served on has a taste so unique it is worth ordering this dish for the bread alone. For desserts, the New York cheesecake is light and moreish while the simply named ‘chocolate’ had even my non chocolate loving palette going back for more.
Each staff member is enthusiastic and eager to show off everything from the food to the extensive drinks menu. Energetic and warm, the staff are as much a part of the experience as the food. It helps that Arish himself is on hand, whether speaking to clients or video calling his baby daughter which gives the place a unique, personal touch that is quintessentially Israeli.
This is a must for foodies visiting Tel Aviv and a great option for edgy fine dining. I’ve been visiting the city for many years and while I love the food scene, for me personally, this would be the first time I could hands down call a restaurant a ‘must-visit’.
Words by Melanie Swan
Sunday-Friday 5pm-11pm; Saturdays noon-5pm
17 JL Gordon Street, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel; +972 73-3861622; santi.co.il/en/
(All images: Supplied by Santi)