Har Sinai Hits Homeby Tallie Lieberman | 16.04.18
A recent crop of Thai restaurants in Tel Aviv is dedicated to revolutionizing what Tel Avivians think they know and love about food from the Land of Smiles. Leading the movement against trite ‘pad Thai takeout’ is Thai at Har Sinai, which serves authentic Thai home cooking and spicy, flirty cocktails that will leave you in a puddle of your own sweat – in a good way. Located in a coveted corner of the city center, the bustling courtyard behind the Great Synagogue on Allenby Street, Har Sinai, which opened three years ago, draws epicureans, hungry for the special flavors they sampled in Thailand, and urban bohemians seeking a trendy spot to park for the night.
Unlike other “Thai” restaurants in the city, which peddle sweet, noodle-based dishes that tend to avoid complex flavors, Har Sinai is remarkable in its uncompromising commitment to “real” Thai food, cooked by Thai chefs and featuring notes traditionally less palatable to Westerners. Cooking alongside the restaurant’s Thai chefs are Har Sinai’s owners, Zvi and Gross Niv, brothers who hail from Israel’s Galilee region and whose father opened one of Israel’s first Thai restaurants in the 1970s.
“They grew up snacking on Thai home cooking after school,” says Nella Potack, part-owner of Har Sinai and a restaurateur in her own right. “Three years ago, they took off to Thailand, where they traveled across the country, deepening and sharpening their knowledge of authentic regional Thai cuisines. When they came back, they decided to open a restaurant that would honor all they had been raised on and all they had learned in Thailand about Thai cooking. Thai at Har Sinai is the product of this knowledge, and we are especially proud that Thai tourists, diplomats and workers flock here for a taste of home.”
This bold taste of home includes, but is not limited to, the rare offal and glutinous rice textures of the Northeast, spicy seafood of the South and light, aromatic Burmese- and Laos- influenced curries of the North. Begin by whetting your whistle with Har Sinai’s signature drink, the Red Dragon, a blend of vodka, passion fruit, lime and cayenne pepper, over Som Tam Isaan, a green papaya salad whose fire is cut slightly by delectable slices of melt-in-your-mouth pork belly. Grab a napkin, dab your brow and dive headlong into a pot of Panaeng Talay, a rich, pungent red seafood curry that oozes flavor from every shrimp, crab leg and calamari ring. (Note: A side of sticky rice goes a long way to extinguishing the heat.) Gai Yang, next up, a chicken thigh marinated overnight in lemongrass, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, palm sugar and mixed Thai herbs, is also certainly worth crowing about. Served with crunchy cabbage and spicy dipping sauce, it is in the running for the perfect finger food. To soothe burning taste buds, round out your meal with Tom Kha Talaay, a coconut and lemongrass seafood soup that manages to be at once earthy and preciously delicate.
With indoor and outdoor seating, a DJ dropping beats every night and Christmas lights twinkling overhead, Har Sinai, open for lunch and dinner, scores on charm and ambiance. While you may emerge from Har Sinai a little sweatier, you will be the happier for it.
Thai at Har Sinai
1 Har Sinai Street
Photos by Liron Erel