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Zoi: An epic gift of Greek cuisine – review

We spent our first forty years of living in Israel in Kfar Saba and the shuk (market) was the place you ventured into for cheap fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and to get your shoes repaired. It was noisy, boisterous and full of life. One of the most colorful characters was Shoshana who, to quote myself from an article I wrote in 2015, used to make raunchy references to her husband’s anatomy while selling her cucumbers and zucchini.
Today, you can still shop there but Shoshana has gone and the shuk has been gentrified à la Covent Garden, cleaned up and filled with several attractive restaurants. Zoi is one of them.
The hands-on proprietor is Gili who gave us a warm welcome one rather cold evening recently. The dairy menu is based on Greek cuisine and the décor is geared to the theme of a Greek tavern with blue gingham tablecloths, fishing nets and old implements on the walls, and several mini Greek flags just in case you miss the point.

The first thing to arrive at our table was a glass of hot sangria with cubes of apple and pear, a perfect drink to take the chill off the evening. We were told that, rather than choose from the menu, Gili would send a large variety of dishes for us to sample.

Greek cuisine at Zoi. (credit: Courtesy of Sagi Barzilay)

I lost count of the number of small dishes to arrive, each filled with a Hellenic starter. Everything is made by Gili and the kitchen staff, including the scrumptious olive bread which arrived at the table, hot, in a brown paper bag.
The first thing we tried were the vegetable rissoles in yogurt: very green, possibly including spinach, very fresh and delicious. Cauliflower was next, deep fried and served with tehina. They were also very tasty but far too oily for my palate.
Skordalia, a Greek garlic and almond dip came next, followed by the inevitable tzatziki and ikra. All were excellent and the ikra, especially, with its barely detectable fishy flavor. Another new taste for us was the pâté made from peas followed by roasted red pepper filled with cheese.
Having only ever had a stuffed vine leaf from a jar, it was pleasant to taste a home-made one which was very different. Also our waiter brought a Greek version of stuffed cabbage with rice, and a dish of eggplant with tehina and  tomatoes.
By now the sangria was long gone to be replaced by two small glasses of ouzo, a Greek liqueur with a strong taste of aniseed which seemed to fit the food very well.
Ceviche came next, chopped raw sea bream served on crispy rolls with a very good pungent red sauce which tasted of horseradish and who knows what else. Finally a tossed salad with grated cheese and fried croutons ended our first course.
The prices for all these starters which, in a normal meal one would try two or three, varied between NIS 32 and NIS 36.
The main course was another typical Greek dish, Gyros, which consisted of a rolled flat-bread, not unlike a Yemenite laffa, filled with pieces of fresh tuna cooked in a spicy sauce, with radishes and onion salad. Home-made fries came on the side, with tehina and aioli dips.
We felt we must try a dessert and chose kanafeh, which is a Middle Eastern creation not unlike shredded wheat drowned in rich syrup and garnished with green pistachios. It was as wonderful as it sounds.
A great cappuccino ended this epic and memorable meal and we returned home determined to revisit Zoi very soon.
Zoi
125 Weizmann Street
Kfar Saba
054-272-9992
Open: Sun.-Thurs., 12 a.m. – midnight
Friday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Saturday – after Shabbat till midnight
Kosher.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.