Witness to some of the historical moments in Israel's history, iconic Tandoori Indian restaurant relocated in Tel Aviv

11:28 AM Aug 31, 2023 | PTI |

The iconic Tandoori Indian restaurant close to Dizengoff Square here, witness to some of the historic moments in Israel’s history, has been shut down and relocated to the picturesque beachfront space on Herbert Samuel Street.


Renamed Tandoori Lands End, the restaurant was formally inaugurated Wednesday evening by Tel Aviv-Yafo’s Mayor, Ron Huldai and India’s Ambassador to Israel, Sanjeev Singla.

The Tandoori chain of restaurants in Israel is owned by the Pushkarnas who are credited with introducing Indian cuisine in Israel.

Reena Pushkarna, a celebrity chef, restaurateur, business entrepreneur, and a key figure in the Israel-India business and cultural arena was earlier this year awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA), the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians by the Government of India.

She is also prominently seen as a close friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.


While parting from its old home of about four decades was not easy for the owners, the well-decked new one has brought cheers to the faces of Indian food lovers, promising fine dining in an engaging environment on the popular beachfront.

An excited Reena told the guests at the inauguration that this upgraded version of Tandoori is for her son, Kunal, who she wishes will carry forward ”the Pushkarna legend”.

”I hope when the history of Tel Aviv is written, in some small place, Pushkarna will be written. And this is for you (Kunal) to take the Pushkarna legend forward, but with India because we are Indians at heart and soul”.

The most well-known Indian face in the country, Reena is dubbed by many as India’s ”Cultural Ambassador” to Israel.

Reena and her husband, Vinod, immigrated to Israel in 1983 when India and Israel did not even have full-fledged diplomatic relations.

”The beginnings were humble and required great perseverance and tenacity on their part”, recalls an old friend of the Pushkarnas, Dan Raviv, who has known them from their early days when they opened a small restaurant called Ichak Dana which struggled to create a name for itself.

”India was neither popular then nor figured in Israeli imagination, so the population had no exposure to Indian food”, said another guest at the inauguration ceremony.

Even in the early 2000s people did not know much about India beyond a few songs from Raj Kapoor’s movies, Ichak Dana being the most prominent, and Indian cuisine, thanks to Reena and her husband who dared to open a restaurant with Vinod leaving his job in the Merchant Marine.

The perfect hostess, as many here describe her, Reena has hosted the likes of Zubin Mehta, actress Sophia Loren, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and President Shimon Peres.

Tandoori, at its earlier location in Tel Aviv, was also the setting for some of the peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, facilitated by Norway in 1993, a fact Singla pointed out in his speech.

”We are all aware that almost four decades ago she (Reena) pioneered culinary diplomacy in Israel and introduced Indian cuisine to Israeli Pellets. We are all familiar with the original Tandoori restaurant at Dizengoff. That was the place where some of the early Oslo talks took place. That was also the place where she introduced Israelis to the original flavours of India”, Ambassador Singla said.

Congratulating the Pushkarnas on their new version of Tandoori, the Indian envoy said that ”food is a language that knows no boundaries” and expressed hopes that they would continue with the example laid down by them promoting India to a wider audience.

Mayor Huldai in his speech thanked the Pushkarnas for turning the city into ”a world culinary capital”.

”The warm ties between Tel Aviv-Yafo and India, and between our two countries may be seen in joint projects in many fields, and this is only one example,” the Mayor said.

”Reena, you have been an important pillar in turning Tel Aviv-Yafo into a world culinary capital”, he said.

The Netanyahu couple are known to have had their dinner on their first date at Tandoori when the current Prime Minister was an emerging figure in Israel politics. The couple, who remain fond of Indian food, are said to have struck a rapport with Reena then and the friendship has endured all these years.

”Nearly 30 years ago I went on a date with my wife Sara to an Indian restaurant in Tel Aviv. Yesterday I asked Reena Pushkarna, the owner of the same restaurant, to prepare a meal for a different kind of a date – a meal with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, Netanyahu had tweeted during Prime Minister Modi’s historic visit to Israel in July 2017 recalling his first date with his wife.

Reena has also served as the India consultant for the Marina Bay Sands senior management, assisting them in establishing their Indian offices in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, and also in organizing the Zee Cine Awards show at The Marina Bay Sands Singapore and The Venetian Macao.

In 2003, she was included in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s delegation to India and again joined Netanyahu’s delegation during his visit to India in January 2018.


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