Travel: Hang ten in Tel Aviv

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Surf Tel Aviv? It might not be part of a classic tour of the Holy Land, but if you want to get closer to the seaside spirit of this frenetic city, rent a surfboard at Hilton Beach and catch a wave. These peaks can’t really compete with Zuma’s, but a day at the beach in Tel Aviv can make you forget about the politically overheated Middle East, if only temporarily. 

Even better, you don’t need a wetsuit here: The Mediterranean feels like bath water well into September. Tel Aviv’s freshly renovated seaside promenade extends in a succession of wide, sandy curls some 10 turquoise-kissed miles long. You can walk it, you can bike it (there’s a citywide bike sharing program, if you can figure out how to use it) and you can eat along the way. 

The best new place for that just might be Blue Sky by Meir Adoni, the new gourmet seafood restaurant perched atop the roof of the Carlton Tel Aviv on the Beach Hotel. Adoni is the power chef behind Mizlala, a nonbeach restaurant nevertheless brightened by the likes of supermodel Bar Refaeli and other twinkling stars. 

More feasting: At age 44, Yonatan Roshfeld could be called the Greta Garbo of new Israeli cooking, and his latest culinary baby is the Alma Lounge. The restaurant of the eponymous hotel is smartly, even sumptuously, furnished. Despite a bold color palette (think sculptural blue and red velvet dining chairs, jewel-like Indian candlesticks and checkered marble floors), the vibe is equal parts feline and frisky. The eclectically curated décor complements Roshfeld’s almost methodically playful menu, with highlights ranging from Golan Heights-spiced lamb to black-and-white-seafood lasagna. 

He has always been a stickler for strong, local flavors, but what’s new is the almost hushed style of Roshfield’s space. With Tel Aviv’s penchant for brash, over-the-top restaurants, he thinks the magic of more intimate dining spaces has been put on the back burner. At the Alma, however, Roshfield’s aim is “to create a cave of pleasure;” a place, in his words, “where you can check everything at the door and just enjoy the best ingredients in a setting that strives for timelessness.” 

Another don’t-miss table is Taizu, where “Asiaterranean” cuisine rules the (very posh) roost. This is a glamorous restaurant with stunning décor and exemplary service, in a slightly off-the-radar location near Rothschild Boulevard. Here Tel Aviv’s new movers and shakers feast on the likes of Laab Gai goose, tangy salmon in Vietnamese caramel, Shanghainese dumplings and quixotic cocktails that could involve chartreuse, rosemary, guava and many other reasons to be glad you’re not driving. For some virtual grazing, check out taizu.co.il. 

In Tel Aviv the search is always on for the hot new neighborhood. You could make a convincing case for Jaffa. It’s known now mainly for its flea market, which, if a bit clichéd, is justly famous. Here amid the maze of stalls you can find anything from a life-sized plasticine zebra to day-glo hookahs to vintage khakis that could have inspired the original Banana Republic catalogue. It’s Ali Baba’s cave, in the open sun. I snapped up a first-run edition of Lawrence Durrell’s “Balthazar” for a song, but didn’t realize until almost halfway through it that my copy of the book started on page 26. 

And now there’s the Jaffa Port, which, as I wrote in The New York Times in February, is the hot new spot: “first there is the setting, in the shadow of a tight patchwork of ancient stone buildings straight out of the Bible (Jaffa’s name comes from one of Noah’s sons), and then there are the myriad food stalls that are the antithesis of Tel Aviv’s famously messy and boisterous Carmel Market.” 

Jaffa’s roots are some 7,500 years deep. Which is part of the allure—and now with Jaffa on the up and up, it’s no surprise that Nitzan Horowitz, a young member of the Israeli Knesset and one of the most progressive politicians anywhere, selected a villa in this mystical and legendary setting in June to talk, quietly, about his upcoming run for Mayor of Tel Aviv in October. Horowitz also made a splash as one of the first guests to appear on i24 News, a global 24-hour news network that debuted this summer, broadcasting right from Jaffa Port. Stay tuned during and after your trip at i24news.tv.