In advance of our Israel trip, we asked our family and friends for restaurant recommendations that would be walking distance from our rental apartment. Everyone - both locals and those who had visited recently - insisted we make a reservation at Goocha on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv.
I have no idea why, but the word "Goocha" is just so fun to say! When my sister would say it she'd add a little jig.
It turned out the restaurant was just two blocks from our apartment. Every time we walked or drove by, the outdoor patio was packed!
Thankfully, we were able to make a reservation and to request a table outside. When we walked up, the place was hopping!
Goocha is a seafood restaurant and their enormous menu is printed on the back of an illustration of a man with his shoes off, enjoying the ocean.
I asked my brother-in-law to help me and hold up the menu so I could get a better photo. He couldn't resist popping over the top while I took my time shooting multiple angles.
Goocha takes their approach to seafood very seriously. The menu is divided into 12 sections including things like crispy, fruits de mer and surf and turf.
Before deciding on any menu items, we selected a bottle of wine. Last year my dad took a wine course and ever since then, he orders for us. He selected a bottle called Dalton Rose. The wine is made in the Galilee in the north of Israel.
We raised our glasses for a toast to being all together and enjoying such a special trip.
After just one sip, my dad commented, "Wow, you can really taste the berries." To confirm his guess, my sister read the back of the wine bottle which said, "Berries and plums." My dad has developed quite the sophisticated palette!
With wine in hand, we placed an order for a few appetizers. The first to arrive was the dark, crusty bread, served with herbed butter and a small dish of olives. The bread had a hearty crust, but a doughy center (the best kind).
My mom wanted to try the tiger prawns and they were enormous! My dad shouted, "Those things are the size of a Florida lobster!"
After cutting them up and sharing, the family reported, "These prawns were very meaty. You could really taste the char from the grill. The green sauce on the plate was very flavorful with a strong taste of cilantro."
The second seafood appetizer was one of the evening's specials - grouper, mango and chili ceviche. The presentation was beautiful and a vibrant rainbow of colors.
While licking their lips, my family shared, "This dish was super fresh. The combination of the mango, chili and red onion was delicious. The mango especially, it really provided a nice sweetness."
In the first course, the final dish was the grilled calamari, which came garnished with tomato, red onion, jalapeño, garlic cloves and goat cheese. I don't think I have ever seen goat cheese on calamari. Have you?
Unfortunately, this dish didn't get a rave review. My family felt the portion was too small and you really couldn't share it with a table full of hungry diners.
Check out the empty plates after the appetizer round. I didn't even help eat any of this!
When our entrees arrived, everyone's eyes got wide. Goocha is no joke!
My brother-in-law was psyched to dig into his grilled mullet fillet. It was served in curry coconut milk sauce that had some serious heat. The dish included peas, onions and asparagus, all giving a nice crunch to each bite.
There was a bowl of white rice on the side, which you could mix in at your own discretion. My brother-in-law used the rice to soak up every last drop of curry! He also remarked, "This fish is so light. The whole dish is truly excellent."
My sister was ooo-ing and ahh-ing over her sea bream fillet. It was served over mashed potatoes and garnished with sun-dried tomatoes and capers.
She couldn't stop talking about how amazing her meal was. She gushed, "This fish was lighter than air and had the crispiest skin. It was just the right amount of salty. I couldn't get it onto my fork fast enough!" She also praised the creamy mashed potatoes and the generous portion.
Next to her, my mom was slurping up a bowl of mussels. Our waitress had asked her if she'd like the small or large portion and she went with the small, which was actually huge!
The mussels were swimming in an herbed butter sauce, which she described as "beautifully seasoned."
Her dish also came with a basket of French fries, which we all stole from. They were expertly crisped.
To my left, my dad was grinning over his plate of seafood a la plancha (on the grill). It was a mix of mussels, shrimp, calamari, string beans, zucchini and cherry tomatoes over a bed of mashed potatoes.
Once he'd completely cleaned his plate, he chimed in, "This mix was really a perfect combination. The mussels especially were so tender."
As I'm sure you noticed while reading this, Goocha is all about seafood. There is only one dish on the entire menu that doesn't have seafood and that's the one I ordered! It was the pasta alia olio.
It was spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, parsley and slivered almonds. It came with a small dish of parmesan cheese on the side, which I promptly dumped onto the mountain of noodles. This dish was super garlicky (thank god I wasn't kissing anyone that night!). The parsley added a freshness while the slivered almonds brought a much needed texture and crunch.
In the center of the table, we shared one order of the grilled vegetables. The side dish included fennel, plantains and beets. My sister loved the plantain and beet, while my parents really enjoyed the fennel.
When our waitress cleared the plates, we were all grateful to be wearing baggy or elastic waist clothes! We had seriously feasted.
Goocha was a great place for us for many reasons. First, you can make a reservation. Second, the patio was an awesome place to enjoy the weather and the people watching. Third, everyone speaks English there, so no need to be shy about asking questions. While it wasn't awesome for me as a vegetarian, my family gave it an A+.
Since we were on vacation, we decided to bust our guts and head to a second location for dessert. We walked another two blocks to a new place called Cookeez.
Cookeez lets you make your own ice cream sandwiches. First you pick your cookies (two of the same or two different kinds) and then a flavor of ice cream to stuff in the center. They even have three kinds of dairy-free ice cream.
I went with two rainbow sprinkle cookies packed with cookie dough ice cream. Gluttony at its finest!
At the register you can also drizzle caramel or fudge on top of your creation. Yup, this place is heaven.
Visit Goocha at 171 Dizengoff Street and Cookeez at 116 Dizengoff Street.