February 9, 2012
Spice up your Jerusalem experience
Even though the sap begins to rise on Tu B’Shevat, colder temperatures continue can drag on in Jerusalem for weeks, if not months. That means finding the right place to drop in and warm up at some of the city’s most appealing restaurants. To satisfy your need to feed, this tasting tour of winter-time options, with prices ranging from low to high, shows you where to get fed and get cozy. And because we’re talking about the Holy City, each of these establishments answers to a higher authority. When it’s kosher you’ll want, it’s kosher you’ll get.
The open-air market Shuk Mahane Yehuda and its surroundings are packed with eateries. Few, however, claim the longstanding history of Sima’s. Dating back to 1969 and run today by Sima’s great-nephews, the Guri brothers, this typical Israeli grill is just minutes on foot from the legendary shuk’s frenetic energy. You could, of course, opt for the meat sizzling on open grills. But the low-cost option of savory kube-beet soup is packed with beets, onions, celery greens and two semolina dumplings stuffed with ground beef. A serving comes with warm pita and your choice of two mini dishes of innovative salads. Recommended: tangy lentils with mint and cumin, and fresh carrots with walnuts and celery root.
82 Agrippas St. (02) 623-3002. ($)
Inspired by the novel by Israel Nobel Laureate Shai Agnon, the combination bookstore-cafe Tmol Shilshom is a down-to-earth feast for mind and mouth. Specialties include shakshuka, the classic stewed tomato and egg dish; salmon in a subtle white wine and fig sauce with sides of spinach, potatoes and portobello mushrooms; and thick sweet potato soup, good to the last drop. A delicious hot sahlab dessert, with rosewater, dulce de leche, banana, shredded coconut, walnuts and raisins, is served in a tea glass — complete with a Tmol Shilshom logo metal cage handle also available for purchase. But the piece de resistance is the Nevo & Ofri, warm Belgian-chocolate tart with hazelnut and nougat crèmes. Named for co-owner David Erlich’s twin children, this dessert never disappoints. With a high-cacao content, flaky pastry shell, whimsical seasonal garnishes, such as apple or pear slices, strawberry coulis, homemade granola and vanilla ice cream, how could it?
5 Yoel Solomon St., near the Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall. (02) 623-2758. tmol-shilshom.co.il. ($$)
Minutes from the downtown light-rail station, Beit Ticho is technically part of the Israel Museum. This former residence of benefactor Anna Ticho features a rotating exhibit of her original paintings. The downstairs Little Jerusalem restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, with heat lamps to ward off the chill. Mushrooms dishes, including a delectable hot appetizer with fresh arugula, complement the signature French onion soup. Topped with Parmesan cheese, it is served in a toasted whole-grain bread bowl worth slathering with fresh butter. Schedule your visit on a Tuesday evening for delicious live jazz and late gallery hours.
9 HaRav Kook St. (02) 624-4186. ($$)
Off the Walls
At the historic Confederation House, Te’enim (Hebrew for figs) serves light vegetarian dishes amid stone walls, high ceilings and spectacular views. Picture peanut tofu skewers with quinoa; baked goat cheese with fresh greens, almonds, mint, cucumbers and seasonal fruits; and an Indian twist on a Middle Eastern Mahajara Majadarra. Filling lentils and wheat berries are laced with cumin, cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric as well as cooling raita and spice-rich chutney. Call in advance to reserve a prime window seat with postcard views of the Old City walls, and pair your visit with live shows in the on-site theater space.
A stroll down the Shlom Zion HaMalka corridor is a slice of city chic leading to the stellar Mamilla Mall. At Canela, a fine-dining fusion of French, Italian and Israeli cuisine reigns supreme. Its glass-cased wine cellar, baby grand piano and a contemporary decor create an inviting backdrop for the warming spices of a classic regional dish with a new twist. Grilled eggplant is adorned with grilled pepper, tahini drizzle and ground beef filet spiced with a not-so-secret ingredient: pickled lemon. This dish satisfies cravings for Middle Eastern flavors, complex without being complicated, and pairs surprisingly well with either the spicy 2007 Binyamina Reserve Shiraz, available by the glass, or the clean, crisp Israeli boutique beer, Alexander Blonde.
8 Shlomzion HaMalka St. (02) 622-2293. canela.rest-e.co.il. ($$$)
Named for the year of its construction, 1868 is housed in the first modern stone building outside Jerusalem’s Old City. Its elegant cuisine represents chef/owner Jacob Turjeman’s contemporary twist on fine dining. Employing classic French methods to create a refined aesthetic, each dish, from the tiny amuse-bouche to full-on entrees, is beautifully presented. The textures are intriguing: a pumpkin veloute topped with Madagascar vanilla, manuka honey and ginger foam or a stew of morel mushrooms and a hanger’s cut of beef. For a comforting winter meal, the half duck, served two ways in one dish — with cuts of light Earl Grey-infused breast and slow-cooked thigh confit — is served with delicious carrot cream, caramelized carrot, sautéed baby spinach and date sauce.
10 King David St. (02) 622-2312. 1868.co.il. ($$$)
A culinary tour through the Bible is par for the course at Eucalyptus. Dinner comes complete with quotations from the ancient sages, the Bible and more. It’s all the brainchild of chef/owner Moshe Basson, who visits tables bearing relevant, entertaining tidbits and a fresh herbal bouquet — yours for the tasting. Order a la carte or indulge in the extensive Song of Songs tasting menu. The grand finale, the Oven-Baked Lamb Pot Pie, is served beneath a whole-wheat pastry shell that your waiter cracks open tableside. For starters, the sautéed purslane appetizer topped with tahini and, in closing, the dessert sampler of semolina cake, liquid halvah and wine-poached pear with almond cream are definitely swoon-worthy. But whatever you do, don’t skip a l’chaim with the house Araq.
4 Hativat Yerushalayim St. (02) 624-4331. the-eucalyptus.com. ($$$).
In the rough-cut compound of Jerusalem’s Old Railway Station, a surprisingly refined option is chef/owner Moti Ohana’s HaChazer (The Courtyard). Here, amid a contemporary decor, this veteran graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu school of culinary arts specializes in creative Mediterranean cuisine with an Israeli influence. The menu boasts everything from red tuna sashimi with seasonal fruit, chili and ginger caramel to crispy filets of striped bass in a hot Asian vinaigrette with mirin, ginger, garlic, chili and arugula sprouts. The star of the show is undoubtedly the indulgent “home stews.” Our selection, juicy veal asado, was slow-cooked for six hours and served with sides. Even vegetarians will enjoy the fabulous whipped mashed potatoes and green beans smothered with a sweet and spicy orange-ginger barbecue sauce.
7 Derech Beit Lechem (Bethlehem Road). (02) 671-9922. 2eat.co.il/eng/hachazer. ($$$).