If your tastes lean Mediterranean, pescetarian, kosher, or brunch, there’s plenty of fish and other dishes to float your boat at Tel Aviv Fish Grill. This friendly fish-focused restaurant is a fresh catch in Tarzana that welcomes you to share in an abundance of cultural flavors.
The name may sound familiar if you recognize one of the three Tel Aviv Grill spots in the San Fernando Valley, serving customized shawarma sandwiches stuffed with spit-roasted meats. Located just a few miles away from its fast casual sister branch in Encino, Tel Aviv Fish Grill swam against the tide when it opened last year as a full-service restaurant featuring other staples of Mediterranean cuisine.
“It’s a fish restaurant, but I think every person would find something that they like—whether it’s shakshuka, greek salad, avocado toast, the salads and dips, or fish,” said owner Garry Aizin.
The fishbone icon in the logo emphasizes the restaurant’s spinoff fish concept, while also hinting at the menu’s selection of fish served whole, including the branzino, tilapia, trout, and seasonal barbounia. But that’s not the only distinctive aspect of the Tel Aviv Fish Grill experience. Along with the fish entrees, your table is treated to complimentary plates of freshly made pitas and hummus, plus at least six tapas-style tasting bowls filled with shareable dips, spreads, and salads, all neatly arranged in rows on a custom-built wooden platter.
“We knew that we were going to make all of those dips,” said Garry. “So we said, let’s make them in a special way that no one has served it before in the restaurants in the Valley.”
Whether you’re dining alone or bringing the whole family, all the mini-bowls and plates laid across your table make each meal at Tel Aviv Fish Grill feel like a royal feast. For lunch and dinner, the assortment of starters can vary, including options like stewed beets, pickled carrots, roasted bell peppers, baba ganoush, or harissa.
“Everything is homemade, from the hot sauce to hummus,” said Garry. The hummus illustrates the care that goes into each of the tapas. It’s a two-day process that involves soaking the garbanzo beans, and then cooking them for about 4-5 hours to achieve its creamy texture.
The flavors in these starter dishes act as both a prelude and an accompaniment to your fish entree, which often looks more intriguing than you’d anticipate. The butterflied branzino is grilled and served with two halves of the fish splayed out across the plate, making it seem twice the size. But because it’s light and flaky, and because it’s covered in a zesty housemade sauce, the whole fish is easy to devour in one sitting.
“The sauce is garlic, pickled lemon that we pickle in house, and white wine reduction,” Garry described. “The pickled lemon sauce is delicious. It has our own twist.” Chili flakes and other secret spices also add a mild kick.
The fried tilapia is served whole from head to tail, flavored with cilantro garlic sauce and a lime salsa. The juicy tenderness of the meat is a testament to the careful cooking skills at Tel Aviv Fish Grill, ensuring that the fish doesn’t dry out when deep fried whole.
Another big crowd pleaser may be the smallest fish on the menu, which are also fried whole. The barbounia, otherwise known as red mullets, are palm-sized strawberry-colored fish from the Mediterranean Sea. To capture its authentic regional flavors, the restaurant imports the barbounia and several other fish from countries near their native waters.
“The barbounia on the menu is wild. It’s a delicacy for customers,” said Garry. “Each one has a very big flavor. In Israel, you eat the fish whole with the bones and everything.”
The sea bream fillet and butterflied trout serve as succulent meaty platforms for garlic and lime sauce, also housemade by Tel Aviv Fish Grill. With the salmon fillet, you’re struck by a sweet hint of silan, a date honey syrup that harmonizes with ginger and soy sauce. The Greek-style striped bass fillet is grilled and topped with garlic, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. And finally, the white fish schnitzel offers the crisp and tasty simplicity of being boneless, breaded, and fried, making it a favorite for kids.
A final garnish of fresh herbs adds a pop of color and flavor to each fish dish, which are all served with your choice of taboon vegetables, fries, rice, or Israeli chopped salad. The side of vegetables is particularly unique, made with roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes mixed with slices of pan-fried eggplant.
If somehow there’s still room for dessert on your table or in your stomach, make way for malabi. Like custard or flan, this Israeli chilled pudding is a sweet and creamy treat made at Tel Aviv Fish Grill without dairy. After a full meal, it feels sensibly light and smooth, infused with rosewater and emboldened by a shallow pool of rosewater and raspberry juice on top. A sprinkling of shredded coconut adds contrasting texture, and a light pink dollop of non-diary whip cream softly reinforces the rosewater and raspberry flavors.
It may surprise you to realize that Tel Aviv Fish Grill has your appetite covered as early as 9am. The all-day breakfast menu features a few egg-based entrees, including an omelette sandwich stuffed into a fluffy pita, and a comforting Israeli shakshuka with 3 eggs poached into a mildly spiced stew of slow-cooked tomatoes. Several other breakfast specials are served until 11am, including omelettes, muesli, and avocado toast.
Or you can start your day with an energizing feast. The TLV Breakfast tapas platter is served all day in two sizes, allowing you to partake in mini-dishes geared toward brunch tastes. It includes some sweet options (jam, muesli parfait) and savory ones (olive tapenade, garlic and dill cream cheese, sun dried tomatoes) to spread over pitas, olive bread, and multi-grain bread slices. The dish also comes with two eggs, an Israeli chopped salad, and morning beverages: coffee or tea, plus freshly squeezed orange juice.
Pro tip: the fish entrees are also served all day, which means you can bypass the lunch and dinner crowds by trying the fish for breakfast!
“Everyone knows we serve fish, and our fish is good, but people don’t expect that we serve breakfast,” Garry said.
Tel Aviv Fish Grill is kosher certified by the Rabbinical Council of California and closed on Friday evenings and Saturdays. For menu updates and specials, follow Tel Aviv Fish Grill on Facebook and Instagram, and visit their website.