Jan 3, 2011

Reuniting with Persian Kebab in Florentin

By Laura Goldstein

Melt in your mouth beef kabobs and rice at Beit Hashef
One of my favorite meals in the world is kebab e-koobideh, Persian ground beef kebabs. Where I come from in Maryland there is a big population of Persian immigrants and kebab restaurants are spread throughout the area. I am in love with this food, the succulent grilled meats, flavorful stews and rice dishes, and sweets that compliment a hot glass of tea.
This love of Persian food was first sparked by my neighbor and best friend growing up, Najva. When I went over to her place her mom and grandma would offer me rice dishes with chicken and dried fruit, savory lentil soup with cream, and tea made with a special Persian technique. After being introduced to that wonderful food I was hooked.
The bountiful salad bar at Beit Hashef
When I decided to move to Tel Aviv I was sure that I would find some amazing Persian food. Jews have a long history in Persia, now Iran. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Persian Jews trace their presence in Iran from the first exile from Jerusalem in the 6th century BCE. However, most of the Jewish community emigrated from Iran after the revolution in 1979 to either Israel or the United States. The BBC  reports that Israel has the world's largest proportion of Iranians in its population, outside Iran itself. With all of these Persian immigrants in Israel,  I figured that there must be some great Persian restaurants in Tel Aviv, the country's cultural capital.

I did some searching and hit the jackpot on Nachalat Binyamin in the Florentin neighborhood. There are a few Persian places on the block between Levinski and Derech Yafo. I decided on Beit HaShef because of the wonderful smell of grilled meats wafting from the door.  

To the left of the door were raw kebabs (meat on skewers) of chicken and beef seasoned and waiting to be grilled. I chose my favorite, the delectable ground beef. To augment the meal there were also three types of rice, I selected the one with lentils and dill, and a myriad of salads to choose from. To top it off I order a piping hot tea.
The Shah and wife and pre-revolutionary flag 

Awaiting my grilling kebabs I looked around the restaurant. The walls were full of pre-revolutionary Iran paraphernalia, the flag, the last Shah, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, in military garb with his wife, and a nod to the new regime with a doctored picture of Ahmadinejad's face on a monkey's body. The flat screen TV on the far wall was playing Persian dance music videos with the occasional American rap mixed in.  

The waiter then nodded for me to try some of the salads, I ate some creamy delicious baba ghanoush like eggplant dip with the fluffy pita bread that I discovered in a basket on my table. Then he brought my tea, rice, and soup (a surprise!)and, finally, my beloved kebab!

Seeing the juices drip off of the tender meat I knew that it would be incredible before even taking a bite. I used my knife to cut the kebab off the still hot skewer and let it fall into the bed of rice. Taking a bite of what I had been missing for so long I savored the soft beef mixed with chopped onions and Persian spices. The rice had it's own flavor that complimented the beef instead of overpowering it. The waiter gave me a thumbs up from a across the room, asking me if everything was alright, I just answered him with a huge grin. My craving for Persian food and one of my favorite dishes was satisfied for the moment. My joy was only increased by the fact that I was only spending 39 NIS on all of that food!

Beit Hashef is located at 78 Nachalat Binyamin and is Kosher


  1. Thank you, Laura for sharing your thoughts and pleasures of Israel's many foods. Your detail to food, history and your surroundings help me to be with you tasting and seeing where you are eating. What a pleasure for me as I have yet to visit our homeland.

  2. Hello .. I have never seen a smart dishes that you created.