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

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  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

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

Botanika cocktail bar brings Swedish style to Tel Aviv.

In the last few years, Israel has been hit by the cocktail craze, with cocktails bars opening up all over the country, with Tel Aviv at the epicenter. Although each bar varies slightly in its décor and style of drinks, many are located in boutique hotels and have a strong emphasis on the presentation of the drinks, sometimes to the detriment of the taste.

Both the beverage and the food menu at Botanika in Tel Aviv are simple and elegant, with a focus on high-quality ingredients and clean flavors with a subtle Scandinavian influence.

Click here for the full review  of Botanka in The Jerusalem Post

Botanika is located in the Ultra Hotel, for a full review of the hotel, click here.

Botanika (Credit Dana Caspi)

Foodie score 9/10, FODMAP friendly score 8.5/10

Pesach Jerusalem 2017

I first started this blog because friends coming to Israel for Pesach would ask me where to eat and I thought it was easier to write one post, than repeat the same thing to everyone.  Since then, my Pesach posts have been some of my most popular so I hope this one is helpful too.

Best Jerusalem Foodie Experience

Anyone who knows me well, knows that Jacko’s Street is my favorite restaurant in Jerusalem and always top on my list of recommendations.  Jacko’s Street embodies the term fun-dining and offers an eclectic, vibrant menu in a relaxed and fun environment.

The Pesach menu (click here) is very similar to the normal menu and includes many must try dishes including the Asado Bruscetta and Fish sashimi Bruscetta as starters and the Entrecote, Goose Breast or the Burger for main course.

They are also opening for lunch just for Pesach.

Jacko’s Street (No- Kitniyot) 02 581 7178

Best Dinner with a View

For the most unique “Jerusalem” setting, Rooftop Restaurant, Mamilla Hotel is a must.  The view over the Old City is incredible and the menu is always interesting.  The prices are definitely on the higher end and the service is slightly hit or miss in the whole hotel, but the view and quality of the food make it worthwhile, in my opinion – click here for a full review.

The Sirloin Tataki, Iron-rich Salad and Grouper Schwarma are all great starters and although the Entrecote is my go-to main course, the fish dishes are always really good – click here for their full Pesach Menu and the desserts menu.

Rooftop Restaurant, Mamilla Hotel (No-Kitniyot) 02 548 2230

Best Street Food

People never seem to know what to each for lunch on erev Pesach – clearly they don’t live near the shuk and have the option of having schwarma!

A few years ago I discovered that one of the best schwarma bars in Jerusalem, Jerusalem Steak House on Agripas,  is not only open for Pesach but the laffa pitot they make are super thin and tasty and, in my opinion, better than the ones the rest of the year.  Since then it has become my tradition to have  lunch every erev Pesach.

Jerusalem Steak House (Kitniyot) 02 625 2745

Best Bar

Mirror Bar in the Mamilla Hotel is still the most stylish bar in the city and always has a good vibe over Pesach.  They have an extensive wine menu and a very good kosher meat bar menu.  They also have an impressive selection of Pesach spirits including the coveted Trump Vodka – here is the full wine and drinks menu.

Mirror Bar, Mamilla Hotel (No-Kitniyot) 02 548 2230

Best Dessert

If you are looking for a Pesach desserts which taste as good as the rest of the year, head over to Waffle Factory.  I went last year and could not believe how good the waffles and pancakes were.

The savory food is also really good (only at Emek Refaim branch this year) – my pasta loving nephew was very impressed and they also have a huge selections of milkshakes and fruit shakes.  Everything you can think of to make kids happy!

Waffle Factory Cinema City (desserts and drinks only- Kitniyot with no-kitniyot options) 02 625 5906
Waffle Factory German Colony (full menu – (No-Kitniyot) 02 567 2049

Although the selection of restaurants open for Pesach is limited this year, there are some other good options, like Gabriel if you are looking for a traditional steak restaurant, Zuta (full review here) if you want a smaller intimate bar experience and Corky’s for cheese and wine.

If I hope that this post helps you find some delicious Pesach food experiences in Jerusalem. Wishing everyone חג פסח כשר ושמח.

To read some of my previous Pesach posts, click here.

Ahuzat Dobrovin – fine dining in a farm

I probably use the term hidden gem in reference to restaurants far too often, but in this case it is 100% accurate.  Not only is this kosher meat restaurant hidden in between fields and orchards in a moshava near the Hula Valley, it also seems that many locals do not realize that it actually functions as a restaurant, rather than just a venue for private events.  Hopefully by writing about it, more people can discover this true “hidden gem”.

I previously ate at Ahuzat Dobrovin when I visited the Hula Valley 3 years ago based on a recommendation from a reliable source (thanks Andrew!).  Since then I have recommended to anyone I know who will be in that area.

Dobrovin Farm was one of the first farms in the Hula Valley, established by Andrey Dobrivin who moved to Ottoman Syria with his family in 1903. It functioned as a farm for many years until in 1968 the family donated the estate to the JNF and the farm was converted into a museum to commemorate the early pioneers (next time I plan to actually visit the museum).

The décor in the restaurant fits with the surroundings and the mismatched fixtures and fittings add to the charm of the place.  Although it was a Sunday night, there were a few other tables around us but by the end of the meal, we were the only diners.

For starters I shared a huge portion of Smoked Asian-Style Wings (NIS 40) which were finger licking good!  I am not normally a fan of smoky wings as the sauce normally comes from a bottle but these were clearly smoked on site with a deliciously sticky sauce that was not too sweet.  My father enjoyed a warm bowl of Orange vegetable soup with the focaccia style house bread.

Much as I love steaks, this time I opted for the Moulard Duck Breast (NIS 95) which was nice and juicy and well flavored but I would have preferred the fat to be slightly more rendered than it was.  My father devoured a Dry-Aged Entrecote (NIS 125 for 300g) and my mother enjoyed the Smoked Asado Beef (NIS 90) with mashed root vegetables and green beans.

Although we only ordered the Chocolate Soufflé (NIS 30) – they brought us a selection of desserts that included the rich, well executed soufflé, deconstructed apple cake and chocolate and peanut truffles.

As you would expect in a country restaurant, they were not so happy with special requests and the service was not as attentive as it could have been.  Unlike some of the meat restaurants in the north, I would not make a special trip just to eat here but if you are nearby, I highly recommend it as the food is very good and the setting is so unique.

If you want to read more about what we got up to in the area, read here about Exploring nature with good food along the way and How the Hula Valley made me a bird watcher.

Ahuzat Dobrovin – Kosher 052-3025154, 04-6934485

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

Kosher Musings in The Judean Hills

Day or night, Muza Bahar is a scenic way to enjoy a very good meal.

While I love the convenience of going to eat locally, sometimes it is fun to escape the city, appreciate the countryside and enjoy the theater of a meal with a view. Muza Bahar in Moshav Shoresh is an ideal restaurant for such occasions.

The restaurant opened three years ago and became a popular destination for people in Tel Aviv and the center of the country on Shabbat. A year ago, owners Yifat and Yaron Armoza decided they wanted to have their weekends back and that they preferred to cater to the kosher market. Much of the menu has remained the same, and some of their customers have remained loyal and are amazed at how well the menu has adapted to the kosher diet, especially the desserts. All the food is freshly prepared on the premises with no preservatives – the focus is on highquality raw ingredients.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Muza Bahar. (photo credit:PR)

Muza Bahar. (photo credit:PR)

FODMAP friendly score 7/10, Foodie score 9/10

Discovering hidden treasures in Downtown Haifa

I had the honor to be invited on a food tour of Downtown Haifa (The Lower City) by Jessica Halfin, CEO of Haifa Street Food Tours and ambassador of #TheNewHaifa.  Jessica invited a group of 20 journalists, food bloggers and others related to the industry to visit a selection of Haifa’s restaurants and bars to showcase the growing foodie culture in the city. Most of us were not familiar with the Haifa restaurant scene and we were pleasantly surprised at what we discovered.

Whipped Cream of Onion Soup, Hanamal 24 -Photo Credit: Avi Shumacher

Whipped Cream of Onion Soup, Hanamal 24 -Photo Credit: Avi Shumacher

As in many cities around the world, the area surrounding the port of Haifa used to be very industrial but in the past few years it has been renovated and it is now full of bars, cafes and restaurants.  We started the tour at Hanamal 24, one of the first restaurants to open when there was nothing else in the area.  We were hosted by Guy Avital, one of the restaurant owners, who along with his business partner chef Ran Rosh, previously owned Recital Danya for 13 years until the building they were in was sold.  Like many Israeli chefs, Rosh trained in France for many years and at one time owned a Michelin star restaurant near Paris, before moving back to Israel.  The menu is very much a traditional French bistro but the design of the restaurant itself is more rural and although it holds a total of 80 people, the dining area is spread out across a number of small rooms so there is a very intimate feel to the space.

White chocolate liver pate - Hanamal24

White chocolate liver pate – Hanamal24

We sampled the Whipped Cream of Onion Soup (NIS 38) which was rich and creamy and unlike any other onion soup (according to a trusted source, they made me a delicious Jerusalem artichoke soup instead).  Next we were presented with a beautifully plated dish with white chocolate, liver pate and chili – at first it was unclear if it was a starter or a dessert but we all agreed it was decadent and delicious.  It was confirmed that it was a starter and my favorite part of the dish was the perfect tiny chili flavored macaron with just the right amount of warmth.

Our next stop was directly across the street to newly opened Morel Worldwide Tapas and Wine.  Unlike a typical Spanish tapas bar, as the name suggests the dishes are f

Reggiano Eggplant - Morel Tapas

Reggiano Eggplant – Morel Tapas

rom all over world and to cater to Israeli palettes they are medium size sharing dishes rather than the small tapas you find in Spain.  The restaurant itself is bright and airy and has a European bistro feel to it.  We sampled the Tuna Tartar (NIS 39) mini tacos which were tasty but lacked punch and the Reggiano Eggplant which was deliciously rich and comforting.

Lastly the Carpaccio Sinta (NIS 42) was tasty if not slightly predictable.   The chef/owner at Morel was an incredibly friendly generous host and it was clear that his goal is deliver what his customers want.  Morel prides themselves on their vast selection of affordable wine, including several local Israeli wines that are only NIS 20 a glass.

We were fortunate to taste some great wines from Vortman’s Winery and the owner Hai Vortman spoke to us about his critically acclaimed wines.  The Fume Blanc 2015 from the nearby Shfeya Valley is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and was a surprising delight as I don’t normally favor white wines.  It was much fruitier than European Sauvignon Blanc wines, while still being a dry wine. Hai explained that an increasing number of wineries are growing grapes in this area as it produces flavors that differ from the Golan and the Galil.

Down the same street is Chang Ba, a wonderfully authentic Thai street food restaurant. The chef who originates from the party island of Koh Phangan serves his favorite Thai street food dishes at a slightly elevated level.  Some of the Thai herbs that are the base of these dishes are hard to find in Israel but chef Dam simply grows his own.  He did say that some vary slightly in taste due to the difference in climates between Israel and Thailand but he manages to get pretty close to the real deal.

Chang Ba - Photo Credit: Avi Shumacher

Chang Ba – Photo Credit: Avi Shumacher

Chang Ba started in a smaller location with space for just 20 people and recently moved to Rehov Hanamal to bigger premises in the heart of the action.  We started with a deliciously spicy Som Tum (NIS 36) – green papaya salad and we were then presented with bowl of white rice and a buffet of all their most popular dishes.  My clear favorite was the Pla Thot (NIS 94), a whole sea bass which was lightly fried and served with a spicy thai herb sauce.  The green curry was also delicious and the most of the dishes on the menu have the option of tofu, chicken, beef, shrimps or fish so there really is something for everyone.

Our final stop was the Libira BrewPub which serves a selection of dishes that pair well with their own brand craft beers.  There were a number of pork based dishes on offer which I declined to taste like sausages with sauerkraut and a meatloaf, as well as some salads and fresh breads.

Gal's Bakery - Photo Credit: Avi Shumacher

Gal’s Bakery – Photo Credit: Avi Shumacher

The highlight of the night for many of us was a delivery of pastries from Gal Gavrieli of Gal’s Bakery.  At one time Gal’s creations were available up and down the countrGal’s Bakery – Photo Credit: Avi Shuy but now they can only be found at his bakery and café in Merkaz Hacarmel and for delivery within Haifa.  Gal brought us a selection of both his savory and sweet pastries which were all incredibly buttery, flaky and addictive!

Jessica did a great job showcasing the Haifa culinary scene and we have already discussed a return visit to enjoy full meals at Hanamal 24 and Chang Ba and to visit Gal’s Bakery to try more of his incredible delicacies and eat in the café.

Haifa has many boutique hotels to choose from, here is a full list and if you are looking for five star accommodation then it has to be Dan Carmel.

Delicious Fish near Ashdod Port

Pescado in Ashdod has been included in a few lists of the best kosher restaurants in Israel (Haaretz and Mako) but I was slightly skeptical as sometimes restaurants are included in these lists either because they have good PR or there are fewer good places to choose from in Southern Israel outside of Eilat.

2016-10-13-20-03-33I recently visited a friend in Ashdod so took the opportunity to try Pescado for myself.  Although it is very close to the beachfront, the view from the restaurant is actually of a car park so don’t imagine a picturesque fish restaurant with a sea view. The inside restaurant is beautifully decorated, but the outside is very simple and they should buy some new furniture or jazz up the outside somehow. However the place was packed because the food is so good, which is the most important thing.

2016-10-13-20-03-45We all enjoyed everything we ate.  We started with the Panko Zucchini (NIS 24) and Crispy Cod (NIS 65) – both were lightly fried and not overly heavy at all.  We also received a delicious portion of Mushroom a la plancha with pesto sauce (NIS 38) on the house (they didn’t know I would write a review).

Three of us ordered the Whole Sea Bass (NIS 118) and the fourth had the Salmon (NIS 92) with a cherry tomato cream.  The sea bass was perfectly cooked and was succulent and flavorful – one of the best grilled whole fish dishes I have had in Israel.  The baked potato side dish was addictive – the skin was slightly burnt and was drizzled with a nutty olive oil – I would go back just for the potatoes and next time I would try the raw fish options.

If you find yourself in Ashdod or are happy to take a drive for a good meal, check out Pescado in Ashdod – here is the full English menu.

The staff were helpful and although there were no FODMAP friendly side dishes, grilled fish is an easy FODMAP meal and I personally am OK with some potato and breading on the zucchini.

Pescado is close to many of Ashdod’s beachfront hotels, click here for a list.

FODMAP friendly score 7/10, Foodie score 8.5/10.

Anna – Incredible Dairy Restaurant in the Heart of Jerusalem

As a local to the shuk, I have so many options on more doorstep, I don’t always venture very far for a good meal but I had heard numerous great reviews about the new Anna Italian Café in Ticho House that I felt it was worth trying it for myself.

We arrived very late for our booking and despite forgetting to call ahead and warn them, the hostess was very friendly when we arrived and assured me that they still had a table for us.  The design is very clean with an authentic rustic feel to it.  We eagerly scoured the menu and were ready to order fairly quickly.  At 8:30 on a Monday night, the place was packed and my only criticism are the bad acoustics.  The beautiful doomed ceilings and stone floors create a very noisy restaurant, so much so that the waitress could barely hear me while I was ordering.  The tables are also quite close together which means you can also hear all the conversations around you, with people speaking fairly loudly to each other to be heard, only making more noise.  As the restaurant emptied slightly, it was much more pleasant and easier to talk to each other but next time I would love to sit on the beautiful terrace – much quieter and overlooking the gardens.

Everything else about our evening was great and the food more than made up for any other inconvenience.  Having told the waitress I don’t eat onion or garlic, they brought us complimentary home-made Grissini (NIS 15) with crème fraiche without the spicy pesto as it contains garlic.  We also devoured the White Fish Crudo (NIS 42).

For main course I had the Whole Sea Bream (NIS 82) and exchanged the herb potatoes for beautifully grilled zucchini.  They also made me a special garlic free lemon herb dressing which I was very impressed by.  I don’t think I have had such well cooked fish for that price anywhere else in Israel.  My companion had the Pappardelle with Sea Bass (NIS 72) which he thoroughly enjoyed.

We couldn’t resist the tempting desserts we saw around us so ordered the Lemon Tart (NIS 34).  Unfortunately they had just run out so instead they gave us both the Tiramisu (NIS 32) and the Chocolate Crémeux (NIS 36) on the house. Both were wonderfully fresh and not overly rich or heavy.

Overall we were incredibly impressed with both the food and service, they are having a few teething problems but the food is absolutely delicious and the service efficient and friendly so I personally would happily go again.

FODMAP friendly score 9/10, foodie score 8.5/10. Kosher