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

A post shared by Calypso – קאליפסו (@calypso.beach) on

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

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

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.

A trip of remembrance and lunch in the sun

It is always a challenge to find new interesting things to do close to Jerusalem on a Friday and of course every day trip has to include yummy food.

As this week is Yom Hashoah, we decided to head to the Martyrs Forest in the Jerusalem hills. This KKL forest includes six million trees as a memorial to the Jews killed in the Holocaust.

At the heart of the forest is the Scrolls of Fire memorial, created by sculptor Nathan Rapaport, a Holocaust survivor who also designed the monument in the Warsaw Ghetto and several sculptures in Yad Vashem.

The scenery on the drive was beautiful, especially in the spring while everything is still so green. There is a sign post to the Scrolls of Fire from road 395 near Kisalon or here is the link for Waze.  You can park directly next to the memorial and the access road is suitable for all vehicles.

The memorial was not only a beautiful piece of art, it was also thought provoking and you can walk inside the scrolls which was eerily silent.

Our second stop was the Anne Frank Memorial which is also in the Martyrs Forest but about 15-20 minutes’ drive from the first stop, this was less well sign posted so here is the link for Waze. Again the memorial can be accessed by car but it is also a lovely place to take a walk/hike.

This memorial was a gift from KKL-JNF Holland and is a sculpture created by Dutch Holocaust survivor Piet Cohen.  It is in the form of a room made of rusted steel with a stool in one corner, from where the viewer can see an engraved image of the famed chestnut tree which Anne Frank wrote about in her diary.  The memorial is also surrounded by quotes from Anne Frank’s diary.

After a morning of remembrance and exploring, it was time for lunch so we headed to Derech Hagefen, a favorite with all the family.  For those who don’t know it, Derech Hagefen is a picturesque dairy restaurant in Moshav Beit Zayit, which is about 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem.  The restaurant is set in the grounds of a garden nursery and includes tables inside two large conservatories, as well as outside in the gardens.

Luckily they take reservations on a Friday and although the restaurant was busy, it was not overly packed. Breakfast is only served until 12, even on a Friday and we got there later, but the main menu has plenty of delicious options.  We all chose different dishes so I was able to try a bit of everything.  I was in the mood for fish and had a very well cooked and generous portion of Grilled Sea Bass (NIS 105) served with potato gnocchi, carrots, Portobello mushrooms and green beans in a turmeric and caper butter sauce. I loved the gnocchi and the vegetables but I am not sure turmeric sauce worked so well with the delicate taste of the sea bass.

The rest of my family went for pasta dishes and were all very happy with their choices – particularly the Gnocchi with Asparagus and Chestnuts (NIS 65) and the Tortellini Porcini (NIS 66) which were both beautifully presented.

For dessert we shared a large slice of Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream, as well as some very rich and creamy Chocolate Truffles (NIS 15).

Derech Hagefen is a great place to go both during the day and at night and the food and service is always very good. They were also pretty helpful with our requests to have certain dishes to accommodate food intolerances.

Foodie score 8/10, FODMAP friendly score 7.5/10

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

Idyllic country café in the Hula Valley

As I have mentioned in other posts, I like to do research before I travel to make sure that I know about all the hidden foodie gems that I would never find otherwise.  This is one time when that research really paid off. Having been in the Hula Valley area before, I knew there were not many exciting options for lunch, especially with my parents who only eat kosher.

We had spent the morning at Agamon Hula (read my post How the Hula valley made me a bird watcher) and had built up quite an appetite. My father was insistent that we try the new Hotel Galilion as who can go wrong in a nice hotel but we were told very rudely that there were no dining options unless we were hotel guests or pre-booked. It turns out that this was very fortunate for us, as otherwise we would never have found my back-up option Beit Ha’ugot. I don’t remember how I heard about Beit Ha’ugot but I am pretty sure it was from a Facebook group.

It was already nearly 2pm so I called to check that they were open and the very nice owner said that she would keep the kitchen open if we arrived in the next 15 minutes.  One of my favorite things about these obscure places is the anticipation of not knowing what you are going to find.  I wasn’t sure if had the right address but the moshav was fairly small and we followed numerous signs, weaving our way through a small residential neighborhood until we eventually found the oasis that is Beit Ha’ugot.  Set in the lovely garden of a family home, I don’t think any description I give will really do it justice.

We were lucky that it was warm enough in late February to sit outside on the wooden decking, surrounded by various citrus trees.  The back of the garden, which backs onto various fruit orchards, is lined with a number of cages filled with chickens, guinea fowl and various brightly colored budgies.  Here is a Facebook live video I shot from the garden – sorry it is a so blurry.

My mother and I both ordered the quinoa salad which was served with finely chopped vegetables and garnished with seeds.  My father opted to the shakshuka which he said was the best he has ever had and we all enjoyed the freshly baked wholegrain bread with tahina and home-made garlic butter.  The cakes all looked amazing but we resisted but I had a lovely jam biscuit with my macchiato and I regret not buying some of the biscuits and cakes to take home with us.

If the café wasn’t closing, we would happily have spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun in such tranquil surroundings. The owner was delightful and was so happy that we had stumbled on her cafe. The couple at the table next to us had come from Tiveria especially for lunch.

Considering the lack of good dairy restaurants in the area, I am not surprised this place is so popular. In case it is not clear, I would highly recommend a visit to Beit Ha’ugot and it is even worth a special trip – next time I plan to order the full Israeli breakfast as it looks great.

Beit Ha’ugot, Kosher Mehadrin, 052-651-0881 – call in advance to check timings.

Foodie score 8.5/10 FODMAP 8/10

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