Meir Adoni is one of best known and loved chefs in Israel, with a line of iconic restaurants such as the Mizlala and Catit, the latter considered a candidate for Michelin stars, if only they would award Israeli restaurant that recognition.
Adoni lives with his wife and baby daughter on Kibbutz Snir in the panhandle of the Galilee. He is a television personality, having starred in many commercials and judged cooking shows such as ‘Chef Games’ and ‘Bake Off.’ He also owns and operates a few restaurants in Israel such as Blue Sky, Lumina and the Dunya fast food chain. Two years ago, Adoni opened the Nur Mediterranean restaurant in Manhattan and received a two-star rating and a warm recommendation from the New York Times food critic. A year ago, he opened Layla in Berlin, and offers classics such as couscous, tahini, malabi and Turkish coffee with some of his own Israeli interpretations.
Meir Adoni: Nur and Layla both offer my own interpretations of Middle Eastern flavors. They both offer ‘fine casual dining’ experiences and dishes from traditional Middle Eastern and North African traditions. I integrate classic and modern techniques in order to apply my own interpretations and thereby create something new.
The food is presented in an intelligent, sensitive and embracing manner, just like we host in Israel. While the public in both Manhattan and Berlin is largely local, we also have business diners and private tourists. You can say that what our customers want is to try new flavor combinations unique to the Middle East.
Wines of Israel: What is your signature dish?
Meir Adoni: ‘Eggplant Carpaccio,’ a plate served with dates, tahini, pistachios, rose petals, feta cheese and other interesting ingredients.
WoI: What does the term ‘Israeli kitchen’ mean to you?
MA: Israeli food is a melting pot of the various Jewish cultures that arrived in the last seventy years and a combination of the Lebanese, Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian cuisines coming from the nations around us.
WoI: What excites you about Israeli cuisine?
MA: The freshness, its amazing colors, and the intensity of its flavors. Israeli cuisine integrates coal-grilled ingredients and fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, goat and sheep cheeses, yogurt, olive oil, tahini, and baked goods filled with local herbs and meats. All of that while connecting to specific regions and combining techniques acquired by the Jewish cultures throughout the generations.
WoI: What do you think about the way Israeli cooking is being received around the world, and what do you think it will look like in the future?
MA: Israeli cuisine has been discovered in the last few years and has become a hot culinary trend on the international culinary scene. Our cuisine is received with excitement, passion and with great curiosity. It seems only the beginning and that many around the world are curious to discover its secrets.
In the last few years, quite a few Israeli chefs started to export Israeli cuisine to America and Europe, and I believe we are now in the most beautiful era Israeli cuisine has ever had. I expect that in the future more and more Israeli-style restaurants of different levels will open around the world and will give Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine the stage they deserve.
WoI: What is next for you?
MA: In a few months my team is opening a restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine and at the same time we are looking into a few other projects in Israel and abroad. Thank God we have some interesting and exciting opportunities ahead of us and I have to say that developing Nur and Layla abroad and Lumina and Blue Sky excites me as well and is definitely part of my future plans.