I love — and I mean LOVE — Israeli food. The light, delicate flavor profiles of the cuisine really suits my palate. I am a huge fan of tang, or sours if going by taste buds. Vinegars, citrus, citrus notes, even mustard — bring them all on. Middle Eastern foods in general I can eat piles of and not feel full. Hummus, kebabs, shawarma, tabbouleh I can eat enough for ten. Saffron always makes me happy and cumin is perhaps my favorite spice.
Living in Manhattan on and off for 10+ years, I was extremely spoiled by delicious Lebanese, Turkish and Israeli foods. My hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area was extremely lacking in foods from the Mediterranean. I can almost say for sure falafels were non existent. There was one kebab place that was extremely pricy and frankly, not tasty at all. When I arrived in Manhattan I was floored by the selection and reasonable prices. I spent about six months eating falafels daily. Lucky me, I lived right by Taïm for years. Taïm is inarguably the best falafel place in all of Manhattan. They spoiled me rotten to the point of ruining other falafel experiences for me. They set the bar so high, I am appalled when other establishments do not produce the same quality. (Like my experience with falafels in London.)
Aside from falafels, and as someone who has yet to visit Israel or any parts of the Middle East and Mediterranean, thanks to New York and the thriving Israeli, Jewish, Lebanese, Turkish, Greek and other Arabic / Mediterranean / Middle Eastern communities and their restaurants, I am confident I have an excellent command of the respective cuisines.
So when I first heard of an Israeli place in Tokyo, I had close to zero desire to visit. First, lavash and pitas are near impossible to find even in specialty stores. Second, most foreign cuisines in Japan are catered towards what Japanese people are used to. In the case of Israeli foods, I was expecting subdued spices that aren’t used in Japanese cuisine.
I took one bite and was shocked. They were delicious, firm, and flavorful with a crispy exterior. On par with Taïm in New York. I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy.
Since then I have returned many times. Even if they are a bit pricey (about $13 USD for a falafel sandwich). I indulge because the falafel pitas are exactly the way I prefer: pickled cabbage, pickles, tahini sauce and hummus.
The chicken shawarma pita is equally delicious. The lamb, though, is perfect for me (not too game-y or intense) but others prefer a more prominent aroma.
Dan, the chef / owner of Ta-im has been in Tokyo for 20 years. He frequents Israel so his food is on-point. Of course I had to ask where he gets his pitas. He generously informed me there is an Israeli baker who distributes pitas to almost all of Tokyo (there are many kebab places in Tokyo. Most are misses, though.)
He has such a great relationship with the baker who gave him a box of matzo (brittle flat bread eat at Passover) and in turn, Dan-san kindly shared some with me (I am not Jewish but I sure eat like one).
Dan-san runs Ta-im with his lovely wife who mans the front of the house.
Ta-im is around the corner from the fish on sticks place I love, love, love. I sometimes bring people to Dan’s for a night cap (they serve alcohol) after the fish on sticks place. And if I have room (which is almost always) I order a falafel pita sandwich.
Like last night, we ended up there after the fish on sticks feast. Ordered a little too much food. Took one too many Arak shots with Israeli patrons working at Hewlett Packard stationed in Tokyo.
It seems silly to rave and write about an Israeli restaurant in Tokyo. But, you know a place is legitimate when Israelis from Israel are blissfully devouring Dan-san’s food.
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Lunch: 11:30am – 2:30pm (last order is at 2:30pm)
Dinner: 6:00pm – 11:00pm (last order at 10:30pm）
I’m not sure if they take bookings. They also do takeaway.