The “50 Best” brand that lauds bars and restaurants around the world is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and Israel is reveling in another strong showing.
The first list, which debuted in British magazine Restaurant in 2002, came to be a kind of crowner of kings (actually lots of Danish kings). So the people behind the roster – UK media company William Reed – also launched regional lists.
The franchise boasts three regional lists: Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, and the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Actually, in this case, 50 Best is just a brand name. The 50 Best Discovery list praises 1,600 venues in 75 countries and 500 cities, as the franchise strives to become a kind of uber-guide.
A full 22 Israeli restaurants and bars grace this mega-list, 17 of them in Tel Aviv.
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To begin with, there are the six that made the Middle East roster that came out in February. These are OCD, George & John, HaBasta, Animar, Milgo & Milbar and Pescado. The first five are in Tel Aviv, while the last is in Ashdod down the coast.
Now other restaurants have been named including Haim Cohen’s Yaffo-Tel Aviv, Sharon Cohen’s Shila, Yariv Malili’s Thai House, Yuval Ben Neriah’s Asian restaurant Taizu, Moshiko Gamlieli’s Bar 51, David Frankel’s Italian restaurant Pronto, Asaf Doktor’s Dok and Michael Gartofsky’s Michael’s Bistro.
Of 12 newly recommended restaurants, 10 are in Tel Aviv, one is in Ashdod, and one – Michael’s Bistro – is on Moshav Liman in the western Galilee.
The 12 new names join Israeli powers already mentioned on the lists including Jerusalem’s Arafat Hummus, Machneyuda and American Colony, and Tel Aviv’s Imperial Craft cocktail bar, Bellboy bar, Pastel restaurant – revitalized this year by Michelin-starred chef Gal Ben-Moshe – and the M25 butcher’s stall in the Carmel Market.
The Tel Aviv-centric nature of the Israeli representation reflects a common criticism of the brand, which has been lambasted for allegedly focusing too much on specific cities. (Here too the Danes are in the lead.) Some critics also claim that the judges too often vote for chefs they're already familiar with.
On January 30, the unveiling of the latest Middle East & North Africa list will take place in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
It’s not clear exactly how well Israel will do, but since 2016, when Imperial Craft made the 50 Best Bars list for the first time, Israel has been a power.