The Hatchery culinary world tour continues. This time Israeli cuisine is on the menu with chickpeas, eggplant and pomegranate galore!
I have written pretty extensively about the culinary incubator before, so if you want to read the back story of the Hatchery, click through here (about their previous Bird on Wire concept), here (even earlier Gail’s Caribbean Concept) and here (one of their first concepts, Soul Bowls).
One thing to note is that alongside the new concept menus, the Hatchery have now rolled out a greatest hits menu. You can get all your favourites from previous popups whenever you want! And while it’s great news that you can still get items from the previous food concepts, the focus of this article will be on their newest called Tel Aviv.
Hatchery’s latest concept, Tel Aviv, is a Middle East-inspired eatery featuring a selection of the region’s best dishes and flavours. Growing in renown as a culinary powerhouse, Tel Aviv is home to cooks and flavours from different backgrounds resulting in a rich tapestry of cuisines the region can be proud of. We’re excited to bring this experience to Beijing.
The menu is inspired by Hatchery’s own Ben Mankarious’ trip to the Middle East in early 2017, where he experienced first-hand the wondrous melting pot of culture and flavours. HatcheryCulinary Director, Simone Thompson picks up the roots of the ancient spice trade and places them firmly in the modern dining arena. Expect a curated winter menu with house-made traditional spice blends, refined small plates characterising the region, hearty braises and juicy grilled meats.
The Tel Aviv popup is best attacked with friends. Most of the dishes are designed to be shared by a few people and you’ll be able to make your way through more of the menu if you do bring a group. The first page of the menu is filled with all the different small plate dishes that you can select to build your own boards – fill it with dips for the homemade bread (3 dips for RMB 55 or 6 dips for RMB 110) or choose any 5 dishes for RMB 110 or 8 dishes for RMB 165.
We ordered 8 mezze dishes alongside a few of the big plates (on the flip side of the menu). A mezze platter of 8 might sound intimidating for just a table of two, but as the small plates started coming out, we were relieved to see that they really are quite small in actually. More than manageable! Unless you’ve ordered a dip, most of the dishes came with just 2 or 3 of each so do make note of this if you are ordering for a larger group because I’m certain everyone will want their own!
Of the mezze dishes, our favourites were the Kibbeh (also a house favorite) which had a lovely nutty lamb flavour and the Spanakopita, which were warm, flaky and delicious.
Spanakopita – Baked Filo Parcels with Feta & Spinach (2)
Kibbeh – Lamb and Pinenuts inside Bulghar Shells with Pumpkin Dip (2)
Normally babaganoush is my favorite thing ever and this one was decent, but a little bland. I would have liked it to have a little more garlic punch and smokiness.
Babaganoush – Grilled Eggplant, Tahini & Olive Oil
The braised fennel came highly recommended and it was also a surprise! A lot of flavor and to my relief, not too “fennel-y” (not a favorite flavor of mine), and it paired really well with the house-made, multi-seed loaf.
Braised Fennel – Fennel, Lemon & Dill
The falafel and hummus were are a classic duo, but neither the hummus or the falafel really stood out to me. Similar to the babaganoush, both were a little bland and forgettable.
Falafel with Spiced Chickpea and Coriander Balls on a Bed of Hummus (3)
The lamb ham on the other hand was very distinctive. Some will love it, but I am sure the strong Baharat spice mix will be more spice that some can handle.
Lamb Ham – Sliced, Cured Lamb with Harissa, Yoghurt and Baharat Spice Mix
For anything that is a little too spicy, the Minted Labneh is your answer. Light and refreshing, this is paired with anything and everything.
Minted Labneh – Strained Yoghurt with Mint and Chili
Special mention to the house-made bread which was great – really fresh and served warm with the perfect balance of crunchy crust and soft middle.
Bread that is accompanied by the Boards
Onto the mains, we move from small plates to big ones.
Running into a friend upon arrival, we were actually told that I absolutely had to order the oven-roasted chicken shawarma (RMB 50), but unluckily for us, they had just sold out for the evening. Just another reason to come back again!
With the chicken shawarma no longer an option, we ordered a grilled mackerel, lamb shanks and grilled eggplant.
Warned in advance that the garlic on the eggplant is pretty intense, we were sold! Is there a such thing as too much garlic? Never. More than just galic, the grilled eggplant is also covered honey, pomegranate, mint and ras el hanout. A tip for you – make sure you mix it well before eating or you might end up with a mouthful of just garlic.
Middle Eastern ‘Chuan’r’ Eggplant – Grilled & Covered in Garlic, Honey, Pomegranate, Mint and Ras El Hanout (RMB 25)
The lamb shank was so tender, the meat fell right off the bone. No need for a knife, we were just using a spoon to scoop up all the flavourful lamb with the white Basmati rice.
Lamb Shanks – Braised in Persian Spices Served on White Basmati Rice with Pomegranate and Babaganoush (RMB 85)
Of the mains, the mackerel was the weakest. The fish was dry, but the accompanying pickled beetroot was lovely and tangy.
Grilled Hawayej Mackerel – with Yemeni Spice Mix, Roasted Beet Relish and Minted Labneh (RMB 60)
Next time I’ll be prepared with more foodies at my side to order their Meat Mountain (RMB 280), which is recommended to share between 3-4 friends and includes lamb chops, chicken shawarma, beef kofta meatballs, cauliflower wedge, Israeli salad, bread and dips. Pretty much a combo platter of their best dishes!
To top it all off we had the pumpkin cheesecake and the berry sundae for dessert.
The berry sundae was lovely, although with the weather turning bitter cold, I would probably get a different dessert next time like their Kataif Asaferi – Semolina Elderflower Pancakes with Cream and Pistachios (RMB 35) or their Dark Chocolate and Yoghurt Terrine with Tahini, Honey and Pinenuts (RMB 45).
Pomegranate Sundae – Spiced Berry and Pomegranate Compote over Vanilla Ice Cream and Topped with Toasted Walnuts (RMB 40)
The pumpkin cheesecake tastes like a mini pumpkin pie, which is perfect in the run up to Thanksgiving!
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Buttery Biscuit Base and Whipped Cream (RMB 40)
Overall, a very promising concept and a cuisine that is definitely under-represented in Beijing. With the recent closure of MoxiMoxi, the little Israeli spot on Fangjia Hutong, the hutong hood is definitely in need of more Israeli options and Tel Aviv has arrived with great timing as a welcome addition.
Contact Details for the Hatchery:
- Address: One street south of Subway Stop for Zhangzi Zhonglu (southeast corner), 88 Dongsi Jiutiao, 5L Meet
- Tel: +86 010 8950 8065
- Hours: 8AM-10:30PM
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.hatchery.asia/
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.