Yona Shines in the Tel Aviv Restaurant Scene
Ofra Ganor didn’t have to open Yona, a sun-soaked eatery and bar on Tel Aviv’s Jaffa Port. Having helmed a string of restaurants throughout her career — including the popular beachside haunt Manta Ray — she was already among the city’s dining industry elite. However, when the opportunity to bring fresh food and craft cocktails to Jaffa Port arose, Ganor’s entrepreneurial spirit made the decision for her.
Opened in November 2011, the restaurant is named for Jonah, the biblical figure who miraculously lived in a whale’s belly for three days after embarking on a trip from Jaffa. “I’m excited daily when recalling that Jonah sailed from my restaurant,” Ganor says, adding that Jaffa is the only port from biblical times that’s still functioning. Since emerging on Tel Aviv’s restaurant scene, Yona has excited patrons too, operating with an open source concept that diminishes traditional barriers between diners, chefs, bartenders and servers.
The sprawling space is marked by floor to ceiling windows, seating that overlooks the sea, and plenty of space to enjoy a signature drink. Described by Ganor as “a refuge from the city within the city,” Yona attracts both locals and visitors with its lengthy, casual bar. Alongside head chef Ronen Skinezes, Ganor conceived a cocktail menu influenced by local herbs. “We use parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and Anise star,” she says of their key ingredients. Tarragon-infused Arrack cocktails and martinis with vanilla and thyme are among their most popular offerings.
The restaurant’s slow-cooked seafood dishes, house-cured meats and seasonal vegetarian options are quickly becoming some of the city’s most sought after bites. Still, it’s the location that keeps the place packed ‘til last call. Pieces from the neighboring art complex could easily adorn Yona's walls, but Ganor doesn’t see the point in adding any fancy décor. “Jaffa Port is so picturesque,” she says, “why fight it?”
Images courtesy Yona