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

Shining a Light on the Jerusalem Art Scene

Although Jerusalem is not typically associated with a large art scene, there are numerous galleries around the city, and you have probably passed many of them without even realizing they were there.

Jenna Romano founded Contemporary Art in Jerusalem (CAIJ) to try to bring these hidden art gems to the fore and make the capital’s art scene more accessible, especially to those who do not live in that world.

Click here for the PDF of the full 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.

Rosenbach Contemporary by Dor Kedmi`

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

Seeing Jerusalem through the eyes of its visitors

I was fortunate enough to attend the Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) International conference in Jerusalem last week, which is pretty much a conference for professional travelers.

Many of the 400 attendees manage to make a living out of writing about their travels. The sessions I attended included tips on how to monetize your blog, appeal to sponsors and improve your content to generate more followers.

Click here for the PDF of the full 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.

Uzi Eli Etrog Man(Credit Noam Moskowitz)

Uzi Eli Etrog Man(Credit Noam Moskowitz)

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.

Getting Steamy in the Shuk

UPDATE: March 2017 – Steam is currently closed until further notice.

Over the last few months, new eateries have popped up in and around the Jerusalem shuk, so it is sometimes hard to keep a track of them all. One of these new places is Steam Kitchen and Bar, owned by a young US oleh, Chananya Rosenthal.  As a lover of fast food, Chananya has planned to open a place in the shuk for some time and was lucky when a small shop became available on Rehov Haegoz (up from Fishnchips and opposite Shuka Bar).  This strip is particularly busy at night when the fresh food stalls close and the bars and restaurants take over.

According to the Steam Facebook page, they serve steamed buns filled with classic American sandwiches but Chananya recently decided to change to classic Israeli fillings for his steamed buns.  I’ll be honest, I was disappointed as I was looking forward to a Reuben, kosher BLT and quails eggs that others had raved about.

For now the menu is very limited, soup of the day to start, shawarma or pargit steam bun sandwiches (NIS 27) or schnitzel salad (NIS 30) with steam bun croutons. Steam’s selling point is that all the ingredients in their sandwiches are high quality and homemade – which I am in favor of, but I didn’t taste enough of a difference to make me want to come back to Steam, rather than going to my favorite local shuk guy across the street to get a huge laffa for around the same price.  There is no doubt that the quality of the steam buns served are great.  The dough is made fresh every day and they steam the buns to order, but in my opinion, they need to create a menu that differentiates themselves more clearly from that which is on offer around them, in order to attract customers who have so many delicious places to choose from.

Now let’s talk cocktails, because to me, that is Steam’s USP (Unique Selling Point) and something which will have me going back for more.  The popularity of cocktails is growing at a rapid pace in Israel, with new cocktail bars opening up all over the place and restaurants have also caught onto the trend and are improving their cocktail menus. However, until recently, you couldn’t get real cocktails in the shuk itself – well you can now!  The Steam cocktail menu features 10 fairly classic cocktails, all for NIS 37, and lovingly prepared using high quality ingredients.  The simple Gin and Tonic uses Bombay Sapphire gin with Fever Tree tonic – a must for any true G&T lover but very rare to find in the shuk, let alone most restaurants in Jerusalem.  The Bourbon Lager with Jack Daniels, Drambuie, lemon juice and lager is a great cocktail for anyone averse to sweet drinks. The Sweet Arak is a delicious mix of arak, lemon juice, dry martini and mango syrup but what makes the drink are the caramelized lemon wedge and burnt star anise served on-top.  I found it a tad too sweet but I will definitely try it again and request less mango syrup.  They also have a selection of beers from Moscow Microbrewery near Bet Shemesh.  The best news is that Steam run a happy hour from 3-7pm with buy one get one free on cocktails per person.

Steam is still in the development stages and I really hope that they manage to find their niche in an increasingly competitive market but one thing is for sure, Chananya has a real passion for what he does and his aim is to serve Jerusalemites with food that they enjoy and makes them happy.

He is open for both lunch and dinner and although there is currently no hechsher, he is planning to get Hashgacha Pratit.

FODMAP friendly score 2/10, Foodie score 6/10.

Raising a glass in a classic surrounding

There is no question that the setting and the décor of the King David hotel is regal and simply walking through the lobby of the hotel to get to The Wine Bar is an elegant journey.  Set off of the main hotel lobby with similar décor and lighting, the bar still has a very hotel lobby feel to it.

The choice of wine on the menu is incredibly impressive and what is particularly special is the selection of great wines available by the glass – a selection that is updated regularly.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Read a previous review of La Regence here.

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The Wine Bar (Photo Credit: Uri Ackerman)