“Le Mala”, one of the restaurants of the moment in Tel Aviv

If Tel Aviv is known for something, it is for its cuisine, where not everything is hummus or falafel. What few imagine is that one of the restaurants of the moment is Mexican food and that none of its owners is Mexican, but great lovers of this food that they wanted to give “the honor that really belonged to him in Tel Aviv”

thus was born Le Mala -“up” in Hebrew- in 2019, on a half-hidden first floor in the southern Florentine neighborhood. This place was secretly transformed to voices of the city, where to get a table and enjoy a totally different experience you have to book two weeks in advance.

Jules was born in Paris and like so many French people he made Aliah with his family when he was five years old, where they were always close to the gastronomic world. Noam also, Israeli-American, when he was 12 years old he moved with his family to the United States, where he got up close to the Latino communities that live there, He returned to Israel to join the army and later settled in New York where he worked in the best kitchens in the city where most of the staff were Latino. That was the best school for him, knowing the true secrets of how his classmates cooked. Without knowing it, years later, that was going to be his destiny, to share those same secrets with the clients of his own restaurant.

Julio Atlan.

“Why open a Mexican restaurant in Tel Aviv?” That was Aurora’s first question to know the story of Le Mala

“We have always loved Mexican food, but we realized that no one was giving it the honor that Mexican food should have. Here in Israel we have fresh products and many of the ingredients that we use in our kitchen are also in Mexico, although it seems strange. We wanted to open a good Mexican restaurant, respect the Mexican tradition to make a custom restaurant. There was not a fine Mexican food restaurant here, we always liked Tequila, the Mexican spirit and we decided to open our second restaurant giving it this space, where we also bring a bit of our worlds, with French and American cooking techniques to generate this place. .

How was the response of the people when they began to come and discover the place months before the Coronavirus?

“At first we opened to test, we got this space and decided to open it and all the people who came were fascinated by the tacos, the tamales, the energy of the place. Until the Coronavirus arrived, which surprised us months after opening. There it was hard and complicated, we tried to do delivery or take away but the quality was not the sameso we closed the restaurant and we were very afraid of losing everything, when we reopened people came again and the restaurant was full. They told us that they missed us!receiving those comments made our day. Until later, with the second quarantine we were totally closed. We ended up buying a ping pong table, we brought it here and for six months we played ping pong in the restaurant, while we made bread to sell”. Luckily, later, when they authorized us to open for the third time, people were very generous with us, they came and filled the restaurant again with the usual energy, the one that always characterized Le Mala. Neither of them is Mexican, did they travel through Mexico at least or how did they know about this food?

Noam: I was on vacation, I’m Israeli but when I was 12 years old we moved with my family to the United States and I went back and forth a lot on vacation to Mexico. Then I went back to Israel, joined the army and went back to the United States.. In New York I worked as a chef in various places. That experience was spectacular because most of the kitchen staff were Mexicans, Peruvians and Ecuadorians, so I was able to learn a lot from them.of what was cooked for lunch, of the condiments, their techniques and their secrets. Learning from the Latin staff was my best school to learn about Mexican food.

Jules: “I’m a little embarrassed to say it (laughs), I don’t think even my partners know it, but I’ve never been to Mexico. I am French, from Paris, and with my family we moved to Israel when I was 5 years old. It is very strange because pEven more than I was not in Mexico, I know all the possible tequilas, I love discovering new brands and products and sometimes we even speak Spanish in the kitchen itself!

We are 4 partners in this restaurant, and the other two partners if they know Mexico, they made their big trip there after the army. They were the ones who had the vision to bring those flavors that they had eaten, they wanted to recreate them here.

Chef Noam Beinart.

What do Mexicans say when they come and see that 4 Israelis have opened a Mexican restaurant?

NORTH: The first thing they tell us is “No sucks dude!” and they ask who the local Mexican is, when we tell them none, they laugh and can’t believe it, because They feel like home but in the middle of Tel Aviv. For us this place brings us a lot of joy, we know that it is not easy every day to be here in Israel, but when we come to the restaurant we feel like on vacation in Mexico.

J: “My family is French and they made the same comment to me when I told them that we were opening this restaurant. The first thing they told me was “How are you going to open a Mexican restaurant if you’ve never been to Mexico!” Now they are proud and I don’t even have room to reserve a table for them. They also became fans of this place.

What do you enjoy most about this Le Mala?

Our goal is that this space is always interestingall our guests have a new experience every time they come. Our menu changes almost every day, the DJ’s that come to play vary. That’s important to us, keep moving and keep learning.. It is very normal for those of us who work in the kitchen to change places very often, because basically we seek to learn new things. I worked in 17 restaurants and now I am looking for this to be the place where we can continue exploring without having to rotate. Therefore in this kitchen we roast, smoke, bake, sauté and also do not restrict ourselves with any product. We cook from meat, chicken, fish, to lobster and octopus as well. That’s what people love, coming to be surprised and enjoy a new experience every day.
Even the dishes themselves are made by us and that was born as part of a search too. Shahar, the wife of one of her partners, set up her pottery workshop behind her and even the crockery we use is created right here and people can buy it if they like it.

We’re always looking to stay this fresh with new ideas, so even we are looking for staff to join our kitchen, especially if they are Latino, we know the passion they have and we love having them in our place.