One of the surprises that I found in my recent trip to Israel was the vibrant cafe and restaurant scene in Tel Aviv. Not just abundance of Kosher food establishments, there was a renaissance of non-kosher gourmet restaurant of all nationality as well. Topolopompo was an Asian Fusion restaurant inspired by Southeast Asia and Indochina style of cooking. Many dishes had a familiar ring to it, but the names were all lost in translation. There was an English menu, but it did not do any justice to what came out on the plate.
Located at downtown Tel Aviv, the newest opening was tucked away in a corner only identifiable by the Checkpoint Software building at the junction. This new Asian Grill by Avi Konforty offers top design and fantastic dishes, bringin style, taste and atmosphere at its best
Some of the items had very Asian sounding names, like Sate Ga, Yang Yu Bing, Yung Ro, etc. Looking at the description, you can guessed where the inspiration of the names came from (Sate=Indonesia, Ga=Thai, Yung Ro = Chinese Yang Rou 羊肉).
From the open kitchen, you can see some Asian faces working behind the counter. An open-fire oven typical in a pizzeria worked side-by-side with Asia-style big fire woks left no doubts that it will be fusion food.
The dinner started with complimentary kimchi. This really reminded me of old school Chinese restaurants in Singapore that always give you a small plate of pickles (usually cucumber, carrots, radishes).
Although they mentioned kimchi, it really tasted like the pickles we had. And the slightly creamy texture of the sauce reminded us that this was a Fusion restaurant.
We started with “Yang Yu Bing” – Chinese pancake, green onions, lamb, cumin and fennel. As I tried to figure out what Yang Yu Bing might mean (洋芋餅？羊與餅？)
Yung Ro was similar to the Xinjiang BBQ Lamb Sticks 羊肉串 – bits of lamb barbecued and flavoured by cummins, chilli and salt Tasty starter for a good dinner to come.
This was a complicated dish to eat. You have the mint and other condiments, you have the beef sticks, and you have the lettuce wrap. You combined the 3 into a taco-style wrap and then dipped it in the sweet-sour sauce. Tasty.
The taste was not quite Korean. The yogurt sauce complimented the beef quite nicely with the heat provided by the Korean chilli sauce. The pickles had Chinese origins.
The fillet of sea bass was seasoned with salt and pepper and fried on the skin side until crispy. Then it was rested on a broth of zesty soy sauce. I would have enjoyed this dish for the fish along, but it was not normal for us to put lemon to fish, unlike in the West.
Crispy skin chicken coated with a spicy sauce that had lots of peppercorns, you got that Szechuan numbing effect that took away the rest of the taste. Not my favourite dish for the evening, but it was an interesting addition to the menu.
The surprise was the Chinese bun – this is the Hap Chui Bao 荷葉包 that we used for Braised Pork. With the same condiments (parsley, peanut, lettuce) and a piece of charsiu, this was reminisced of the tasty Taiwanese GuaBao.
The service was good and attentive, except the level of English can be limited with some. Location was a challenge to find as most cabbies would not be able to find it straight away. If you have been in Israel for a long time and need a quick reminder of home, this is a must-visit.
Sulelim 14, Tel Aviv
opening hours: Sunday – Saturday 12:00 – 19:00