September Foodie Roundup – news on the Israeli culinary scene

I decided to write the August Roundup post as a way to easily update those who are often asking about new places opening or don’t know about places closing.  It was purely an experiment – but apparently a good one as in just a few days it became one of the most viewed posts on my blog and three different restaurant owners go in touch with me wanting to make sure I had the information I needed about their business.

So, it looks like this will become a regular feature and as always, I would be happy to hear feedback, but I cannot promise that I will follow it 😊.

Jerusalem News

JLM Local Sushi (Kosher) – the owners of 1868 have decided to close Marvin Wine & Food and replace it with a sushi restaurant. They officially opened this week with a fish and meat menu but vegan and vegetarian dishes are clearly marked – click here for the menu. I am sure the food will be just as delicious and creative as the rest of the restaurants in the 1868 group (1868 review and Zuta Bar review).

Villa Brown (Not Kosher) – a boutique hotel from the Brown hotel group has opened on Ha’Neviim Street and includes Cave Bar, a cocktail and wine bar in the basement of the hotel.  Rumor has it that the hotel serves high-tea, I plan to visit soon and will report back.

Valero (Not Kosher) – new chef restaurant and bar from Chef Aviv Moshe (Messa & Quattro) on the corner of Agripas and Beit Yaakov has finally opened.  The name Valero is apparently the originally name for the shuk area. It is a soft opening with a trial menu and 20% off – click here for the menu in Hebrew. The place is beautifully decorated and well laid out and I hope the food is as good as his other restaurants!

Orient Jerusalem – Isrotel have finally opened a hotel in Jerusalem at the crossroads of Emek Refaim and Derech Bet Lechem.  The hotel has a dairy café in the lobby and buffet breakfast and dinner.  The food at the Isrotel Exclusive Collection hotels is normally excellent and reports so far have been very positive.

Urbun (Mehadrin) – Urban café near the shuk, which opened at the end of June, has changed its name to Urbun and will focus only on desserts and pastries.  People are raving about their Cinnamon Buns.

Babka @Urbun

Tel Aviv & Merkaz News

Bar B Que – Australian Grill (Kosher) – a new restaurant in Herzliya Pituach industrial area, focused all types of meat. The owner is Australian with South African origins so expect amazing flavors and sauces! The picture below says it all!

New smoker the journey begins..#smoker #meat #lowandslow#sirlion #asado #טלה #חזה

A post shared by Bar B Que Israel (@barbque_israel) on

Cà Phê Hanoi (Kosher) – it may have been open for a few months already but this Vietnamese restaurant with a French and Israeli twist is definitely the hot ticket in town. If you can actually get through to make a booking, then apparently it is worth the wait, so far I have been so lucky.  Apparently the service is hit or miss but the creativity of the food makes up for it.

Our version of love ❤

A post shared by Caphehanoi (@caphehanoi) on

Upcoming Foodie Events

Round Tables by American Express, October 31- November 17, 2017 – which includes Mona in Jerusalem and one kosher option at Hayakron 99 at the Dan Tel Aviv – full details here.  It is nearly sold out so book fast!

Maido Peru - Vegan Cheesecake

Maido Peru – Vegan Cheesecake

Open Restaurants Jerusalem – 14-18 November 2017 – some of the events are already listed on their website but the full schedule, including some events in English,  will only be up in early October and booking starts on October 15 so there is plenty of time to have a look and decide what you want to go to.  Here are my posts on Open Restaurants 2016 and a cocktail workshop I attended last year.

Coming Soon

Memphis Burger (Kosher) is planning to open a Jerusalem branch on Agripas after the chagim. Those who have been to the Tel Aviv branch, will know how exciting this news is.  Even though there are already a number of burgers places in that area and I am a died hard Josef Burger fan, the taste and quality of the burgers at Memphis is amazing.  Last time I was there, I had the 250g burger (NIS 55) which was thick and juicy, with a great crust on the outside, something you don’t get in the other places.

Memphis Burger

In other news, Israeli Social Eating company EatWith has been sold to European rival VizEat, read the full story here.

To read previous monthly round ups, click here.

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Round Tables Culinary Festival – November 2017

Israel might not have its own Michelin restaurants but the American Express Round Tables Festival bring a taste of Michelin to Israel for the third time.  A total of 60 chefs and restaurateurs from 14 restaurants worldwide will once again take part in the international culinary festival.

Each international restaurant pairs with a leading Israeli restaurant to serve a tasting menu featuring signature dishes of the guest chefs, with a local twist added by the Israeli hosts.  Before the festival begins, the Israeli chefs spend a training period in the restaurants abroad and begin the preparations for the event.

Of the 14 international restaurants involved this year, two of them hold two Michelin stars, six hold one Michelin star and three have been listed as the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.  Among the visiting chefs will be Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido in Peru, who is ranked number eight in the world and is the highest-ranking chef to ever participate in the festival. He will be cooking at Japanese Bistro Ya Pan in Tel Aviv.

Maido Peru - Vegan Cheesecake

Maido Peru – Vegan Cheesecake

L’Air du Temps from Belgium, led by the Korean-Belgian chef Sang Hoon Degeimbre, will bring its two Michelin stars to Pastel and 7132 Silver, located at a luxury spa hotel in the Swiss Alps (two Michelin stars) will join Chef Shahaf Shabtay in the Nithan Thai kitchen.

This year the festival includes a kosher restaurant where Mallorca’s Andreu Genestra Restaurant (one Michelin star) will partner with Dan Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon 99.  For the first time, the festival is not restricted to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s Mona will host British restaurant The Elephant (one Michelin star).

The full festival runs October 29 – November 17 but the individual restaurant events last around five days each.  Tickets range from 269 to 399 NIS per person for a five-course meal without drinks, with special offers for holders of Israeli American Express cards. Some of the events are already sold out so if you are interested in taking part, book your tickets soon.

All the information about the restaurants involved is on the festival website, https://www.roundtablestour.com/en/.

Ricard Camarena Restaurant Spain – Mango Maduro Curry

August Roundup – latest changes to the Israeli culinary scene

As the restaurant scene in Israel is so dynamic, I thought it would be helpful to start writing updates on recent openings and closings.  The focus will be on my hometown Jerusalem, but I will also include other news from the last few months.

Jerusalem Openings 

  1. Urban Café (Mehadrin) – a small dairy chef cafe near the shuk with elevated salads, sandwiches and pizzas.  The ingredients are fresh and the menu is creative.  I loved the tuna melt and their brownies and cookies look delicious.
  2. Bakshish (Kosher) – the sous-chef from Jacko’s Street has opened a tapas and cocktail bar in the old Jacko’s Street location.  Very much a bar with food, the decor is beautiful, the bar is very well stocked and the tapas dishes are nicely presented and executed.  Mostly an Israeli crowd, but it is good to have a fancy bar in the shuk area.

    Roast Beef Bruschetta @Bakshish

  3. Ofaimme (Kosher) – Ofaimme Farm has opened a second branch in Beit Hansen serving organic farm to table produce with a focus on cheese and pastries. There is also a shop attached to buy produce to take home.

    משק עפאים – הבורקאסון. צילום: @asafkarela

    A post shared by משק עפאים לחקלאות בת-קיימא (@ofaimme) on

  4. Rachel ba Sdera (Kosher) – thanks to Rachel from MasterChef, Jerusalem finally has its own Boulevard cafe on Sderot Ben Maimon in Rehavia.  The small kiosk sells salads, sandwiches and drinks.
  5. Amster Bar (Mehadrin) – Dutch style chips/fries in the shuk (Rehov Haegoz) with loads of interesting sauces including chocolate, peanut butter and alfredo. They also have sausages and a large selection of beers.
  6. Hatch – a craft beer taproom with artisanal sausages which is directly opposite Amster Bar (where Steam used to be). Not been myself but reports so far have been very good.
  7. Hamotzi (Kosher)– moved location and is now on Rehov Yafo, right next to the entrance to the closed shuk.  The location is much bigger with an upstairs gallery and lots of tables outside.

Crispy desserts from Hamotzi opening party

Tel Aviv Openings 

  1. Kukuriku (Not Kosher)– Chef Ran Shmueli of Claro fame, has opened a rotisserie chicken stall in Sarona market.
  2. Calypso (Not Kosher) – Tel Aviv finally has a chef restaurant on the beach, thanks to Omer Miller of HaShulchan and Susu & Sons.  The traditional seafood tavern on Frishman Beach is open day and night.

יום שבת, חביבי, אתה לא מפחיד אותנו #calypso_beach

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Closings

  1. Fish and Chips by Fauchon in Sarona Market has closed down – the setting and concept never seemed to work.  It will be interesting to see what opens instead in such a prime position. Netachim inside Sarona Market has also closed but Fleishman Deli is still their sandwiches are delicious.
  2. Crubis and Tahrir in the Jerusalem shuk have both closed down, leaving two more stalls for new places to open in.

Coming Soon

Chef Aviv Moshe, one of Israel’s best chefs, is opening a bar and restaurant on the corner of Beit Yaakov and Agripas called Valero. He is most well known for his restaurants Messa and Quattro in Tel Aviv so I am excited to see what the concept will be for this new venture in Jerusalem.

My Recent Reviews

  1. La Padella brings a taste of Europe to the Jerusalem Shuk
  2. Hotel Review: Ultimate Urban Style at Ultra
  3. Jacko’s Street: A Winning Combination
  4. Les Jumelles – A new French Café near Abu Ghosh

Let me know if you like this style of posts and if there is anything else i should include in the future.

La Padella brings a taste of Europe to the Jerusalem Shuk

Breakfast and More Morning to Night

Street food options in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market are plentiful, with new places opening up all the time. But for those of us who sometimes prefer to sit in a proper café and enjoy an indulgent brunch, the options are more limited. Luckily, La Padella has changed that.

The restaurant has a diverse menu that includes more than 10 types of breakfast, as well as an interesting selection of sandwiches, salads, rich main courses and decadent desserts. Located in the space where Café Mizrachi once stood, La Padella has quickly become popular with both locals and groups touring the shuk (it can seat up to 25 people at a long table).

As with many places in the shuk, at night La Padella turns into a bar with a less than standard wine and cocktail menu and a well-stocked bar. We enjoyed a refreshing glass of Psagot White Seven (NIS 30/glass and NIS 95/bottle) with our meal but hope to go back soon to try the cocktails.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

French breakfast

Mac & Cheese

Cheesy Fries

La Padella, +972(0)2 624 2105, Kosher Mehadrin

Foodie score 7/10, FODMAP friendly score 7.5/10

Hotel Review: Ultimate Urban Style at Ultra

More and more boutique hotels are popping up all over Tel Aviv and each one offers something different to its guests. The new Ultra Hotel is in a prime location in central Tel Aviv, for those wanting to experience all that the White City has to offer. A short walk from the beach, the stylish urban hotel is a great option for a modern traveler with a lower budget.

The focus of the hotel is on the guests, captured perfectly in the hotel tagline “Ultra begins with U.” The great service I received certainly reflected this sentiment.

The intimate hotel reception and lounge area offers 24-hour complimentary tea and coffee with refreshments including fresh fruit, cakes, biscuits and an adorable selection of jelly sweets. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and the option to use an electronic key system via a phone app.

Hotel patio – Credit: Assaf Pinchuk

While many of the urban rooms overlook the street, I was given a room that opened onto one of two beautiful shared patios. Although the rooms are fairly small, they are well equipped with complimentary water, an espresso machine and chocolates, as well as a lovely bathroom with a spacious walk-in shower.

The hotel is already popular with locals, as well as tourists and business travelers. It is not family-friendly, although there was a couple from Europe with a child while I was there.

One of the biggest draws for me was the Scandinavian cocktail bar, Botanika in the entrance to the hotel. The bar offers a great selection of cocktails and bar food at night and serves as a coffee shop during the day. Breakfast for hotel guests is also served in the bar, which is a unique setting for breakfast.

I found the buffet selection was more limited than many Israeli hotel breakfasts, but it included everything I needed for a good breakfast – hot coffee, perfectly cooked eggs and lovely breads that were incredibly tasty and fresh.

The hotel offers reduced-rate parking in the adjacent building and free entrance to the gym across the street. The stylish design of the hotel is all thanks to the general manager, Tomer Peleg, and his mother who sourced the furniture, fixtures and fittings from all over Europe.

Ultra is an ideal choice for those looking for a modern hotel in a central location. For more information: www.ultra-hotels.com and for booking rates, click here.

Ultra: Environmentally friendly, with a Scandinavian cocktail bar to boot. (Assaf Pinchuk)

Click here for the PDF of the article in The Jerusalem Post. The full article on The Jerusalem Post website is for subscribers only but it can be read by non-subscribers on a mobile device with this link.

Here is a full review of Botanka cocktail bar.

Jacko’s Street: A Winning Combination

Jacko’s has all the right ingredients for a memorable dining experience

If eating at a restaurant was just about the food, then I don’t think the restaurant industry would survive. A dining experience is not just about the food but rather the whole experience, including the service and the ambience. Many restaurants in Israel fail by not considering the experience they offer diners.

Jacko’s Street opened four years ago in Jerusalem and was the first kosher chef restaurant in the Mahaneh Yehuda market area. As the small streets around the shuk started to fill with more and more eating options, the popularity of Jacko’s also grew. In my opinion, the success of Jacko’s Street is due to its understanding that it is important to offer people more than just great food.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Asado Credit Sivan Shuv Ami

Asado Credit Sivan Shuv Ami

Goose Liver Semolina Cake

Beef Fillet Credit: Sivan Shuv Ami

Beef Carpaccio Credit: Sivan Shuv Ami

Fish Bruschetta

Jacko’s Street, +972 (0)2 581 7178, Kosher

Foodie score 9/10, FODMAP friendly score 8/10

A new French Café near Abu Ghosh

Although it has been open over a year, Les Jumelles in Beit Nekofa has only been gaining notoriety in the last few months since they have made a push for more people to hear about them.  The small French style café is located just inside the entrance to Moshav Nekofa, a few minutes from the highway turn off to Abu Ghosh.

We knew they did not take bookings on a Friday but having arrived at 12noon, we only waited about 5 minutes before a table became available and this gave us the opportunity to admire the wonderful selection of baked goods they had available to take home including both dairy and parev cakes and biscuits.

We were sat in the outside conservatory that overlooks the street (they do not have real outside space).  Unfortunately this area does not have air-conditioning and another diner had insisted on closing one of the large windows, so it was very stuffy with little fresh air – I would not want to sit there in the height of summer.  There was also a group of 20 in this section and although they were not too noisy, they were mostly kids and made some speeches which was not ideal.  We should have insisted on waiting for a table in the main café room which was significantly quieter and cooler! It was much more pleasant once the window was eventually opened, but the inside section is still nicer.

The main menu is varied and there are also daily specials.  We all chose from the breakfast menu, which included various options of eggs Benedict and shakshuka.  I made the mistake of getting the simple house breakfast (NIS 58) which was a very average Israeli breakfast and lacked any interesting dips or breads – quite surprising for a French style cafe and the eggs themselves were overcooked.  Others were happy with their orders of the Eggs Benedict with Spinach (NIS 58) with a hollandaise sauce and a special Eggs Benedict with mushrooms, parmesan and truffles.  Both said they were delicious but the eggs were also slightly overcooked and not runny as poached eggs should be.

For me the pastries were the redeeming factor! We tried the Gluten Free Hot Chocolate Cake which was rich and indulgent but not overly sweet.  The Cheesecake was perfectly creamy and also not too sweet and the accompanying tart berry sauce was a wonderful pairing. Finally we enjoyed the pistachio cake which was rich although not overpowering but I personally thought it didn’t need the cream topping. The ice-coffee was also a perfect compliment to the cakes.

They do not have a menu in English which will hopefully change if they want to attract English speaking clientele but here is the link to the Hebrew menu.

I am personally a big fan of going for Friday brunch outside the city so I will be sure to go back but next time I will stick to the more interesting French dishes or maybe just the cakes!

Les Jumelles Café, +972 (0)2 930 9991, Kosher Mehadrin

Foodie score 7/10, FODMAP friendly score 8/10

Jerusalem in Our Hearts – the Celebrations Continue

The opening ceremony of the Jerusalem at 50 celebrations was probably one of the most uplifting events I have ever been to but luckily some of the magic from that night continues with the “Jerusalem in Our Hearts – Sound and Light Show” that is taking place to celebrate 50 years of United Jerusalem – ending July 25.

Click here for a full post about the Jerusalem at 50 opening show, including my first vlog.

The beautifully choreographed show is projected onto the outside walls of the Old City, between Jaffa Gate and Kikar Tsahal (towards New Gate) and includes spectacular graphics depicting the story of the Old City of Jerusalem over the centuries, interspersed with video clips of some of the music performances from the opening ceremony, including Sarit Hadad, Avraham Tal, Ben Snof, Idan Amedi and Amir Benayoun (the links are to songs by each artist, some from the opening ceremony)

The show starts at 8.15, 9 and 10 pm every weeknight (not Friday or Shabbat) and lasts for about 35 minutes. It is free of charge and does not require tickets, but make sure you get there on time as the beginning is the most impressive part.  Very limited information in Hebrew can be found here, www.unitedjerusalem50.com (ignore the times on the website – the first show is at 8.15 not 8 pm) but you have all the information here and I am happy to answer questions if you comment below.

I highly recommend going to see it sooner rather than later, it was so good, I want to go again!

Here is a video montage of the opening celebrations from the production company.

Brunch and mini hike in Tzuba

With the days getting longer but before it gets too hot, I try to plan some fun Friday day trips outside Jerusalem that include two of my favorite things, good food and exploring the Israeli countryside.

Buffet Brunch at Tzuba Hotel

I had heard about the brunch buffet at the Tzuba Hotel on Kibbutz Tzuba for a long time and kept meaning to go and try it.  They recently re-launched with a new taboon oven, which gave me an extra push to check it out.  The cost for the buffet is 95 NIS per adult or 115 NIS including a wine tasting tour at Tzuba Winery.  I have been to the winery before so just went for the brunch option.  It was not easy to book, I called a few times but there was no answer, I sent an email which went unanswered but eventually I got through by phone.  Even though the brunch runs to 2pm, the lasting booking slot is 12 and by 1pm the omelet and focaccia stations closed so make sure you arrive on time.

The setting was beautiful but we couldn’t sit outside on the balcony as it was in use from a private event for about 60 people – something I think they should have mentioned when I booked.

The buffet was a typical Israeli breakfast buffet, with the addition of more hot food like fish, lasagna other oven-baked dishes.  The focaccia from the taboon on the balcony was fresh and delicious and definitely a great feature but I felt uncomfortable going out to get food there as it was next to the private party.  I also felt that the omelet station was very standard and lacked any exciting fillings.

Most of the food was replenished as it was finished and we particularly liked the cheese selection which was more unique than an average hotel breakfast. The dessert section was also varied and interesting and we enjoyed having unlimited fresh coffees.

Overall the food was very good and it was a pleasant atmosphere for a brunch in the country.  We probably ate our money’s worth and you certainly pay a premium for the section a buffet offers, but I personally prefer less food and higher quality.  We enjoyed the meal but I wouldn’t rush back unless I was in the area.

Brunch at Tzuba Hotel, +972(0)2-5347090, Kosher Rabbinate Mate Yehuda

Foodie score 7/10, FODMAP friendly score 8/10

Belmont Crusader Fortress – Tel Tzuba 

A few minutes’ walk from the main hotel building is the beginning of a hiking trail of Tel Tzuba, which is believed to be the site of an ancient Jewish settlement in the days of King David. In 1170 the Belmont Crusader fortress was built there to guard the route to Jerusalem and it was conquered in 1191 by Saladin. The Arab village of Suba,  built on the site of the ruins, was the scene of fierce fighting during the 1948 War of Independence due to its strategic location overlooking the road to Jerusalem. In July 1948 most of the inhabitants fled before the fighting and moved to Jordan or the nearby village of Ein Rafa. In October 1948 a group of Palmach veterans established Kibbutz Misgav Palmach, 1 km south of Suba, which was later renamed Palmach Tzova (known as Tzuba).

The receptionist at the hotel gave us a helpful map of sites in the Tzuba area (which includes various walking trails around the kibbutz and The Cave of John the Baptist) but the entrance was very badly sign-posted and even though you can access it by car, we advised it would be better by foot.  We followed the road that winds up the hill past some incredible looking cactus plants.

The small path that goes up the castle  and village ruins was not signed and was also closed off by a barrier but we soon realized that this was the only way up and climbed over the barrier to go exploring.  We didn’t make it all the way to the main ruins as the path became a slightly precarious and we were not prepared for a proper hike, but the views from where we reached were incredible and well worth the climb. We could see over to Kiryat Anavim and Maale Hamisha in one direction and to Ein Kerem and Hadassah Hospital in the other. There was not much to see among the ruins we passed but it was still a beautiful mini hike. I believe there was more to discover on the other side of the hill but we didn’t get that far.

Apparently Tel Tzuba is in the process of becoming a national park which will hopefully make it more accessible and clearly signed.

Once again I found very little information online in English about this location even on the Tzuba tourism website, so hopefully this post will be helpful to other people who are planning short day trips from in the Judean Hills surrounding Jerusalem.

Click here for another post about a day trip in near Jerusalem, followed by a delicious lunch.

Celebrating Jerusalem 50

I am asked on a regular basis why I choose to live in Jerusalem, rather than the more cosmopolitan Tel Aviv.  There are many reasons for my love of Jerusalem and living in proximity to the Old City and thousands of years of Jewish history is one of them.  So often I drive past the Old City walls as part of my day-to-day life and I force myself to pause for a moment and appreciate how lucky I am.

So celebrating 50 years of united Jerusalem on “Yom Yerushaliyim” (Jerusalem Day) is particularly meaningful and despite the disruption to the proceedings caused by Trump’s visit to the city, the opening ceremony was truly spectacular and I couldnt resist trying to capture some of the magic in the video and photos below.

I am not a vlogger and this was my first attempt at editing video clips together, so please excuse the poor quality and the top of people’s heads!

The new sound and light show will continue to be shown on the Old City walls between Jaffa Gate and Kikar Tsahal (towards New Gate) until July 17 (50 days to celebrate 50 years).  UPDATE – extended to July 25 Read more about it here.