Hotel Review: A charming oasis in the heart of Haifa

Nestled in the heart of Haifa, in a protected historic building, sits the Bay Club Hotel, part of the ever-expanding Atlas chain.

The impressive building, which was originally a family home at the time of the Ottoman Empire and later housed the British Mandate police, is now a 52 room boutique hotel. The hotel has a regal art deco design with a nautical theme, accentuated by a calming blue and green color scheme.

We arrived just in time for the daily happy hour which is held in the restaurant with its peaceful conservatory.  As well as a selection of drinks, there was also a light dairy buffet and a free 15-minute massage from the hotel spa, which was so good, I decided to book a full treatment the next day.

The Shorashim Spa (www.shorashimcare.com) is housed in the lower level of the hotel and offers a wide range of holistic treatments tailored to one’s preference.  Yoav Lalum, the spa owner, gave me a wonderful massage that was both intense and relaxing at the same time.  The advantage of having a massage in a hotel is that you can go straight up to your room afterward and relax.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Credit: Nathan Dvir

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Café 65 offers a relaxing business lunch in a tranquil setting

Business lunches are a great way to try high-end restaurants at a reduced price and are also a good opportunity for a working lunch. I have tried business lunches in a number of places in Tel Aviv, so I was excited to see how the lunch at Café 65 compared.

Café 65 is situated in the 65 Hotel, part of the Atlas Hotel chain, located at 65 Rothschild Boulevard. The café is in the hotel lobby, and there is a spacious patio overlooking the street. Although this is a busy area, sitting in the café was lovely and quiet, and the tables were spaced far enough apart to allow for private conversations.

As with many business lunches, the price of the main course included a starter and a soft drink. A colleague was my dining companion, and we have been to a number of business lunches in the area together. We both that the lunch at Café 65 was better value and higher quality than others we had tried recently. We appreciated that all the starters on the menu were included in the price of the lunch, unlike some places where they try to upsell you with starters that incur an extra cost. In addition to the eight main courses on the menu, there were three chef specials, which all sounded wonderful, but we both opted for dishes from the set menu.
Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post 

NOTE: Even though the main menu is just dairy, Cafe 65 is not kosher and they sometimes serve seafood specials.

Salmon Fillet Cafe 65 Credit Yonathan Ben Haim

Scala Offers Authentic Jerusalem Food in a Hotel Surrounding

The Scala restaurant in The David Citadel Hotel recently re-opened, having been closed for the last two years. The restaurant is off the hotel lounge, on the fourth floor of the hotel and the décor is similar to the overall style of the hotel. The previous restaurant was a fine-dining concept but the new restaurant serves traditional, Jerusalem food using modern techniques.  The hotel chef, Avi Turjeman, designed the menu to be simple and fresh, while offering authentic local food.

We started the meal with a small bowl of deliciously rich and flavorful meat and vegetable soup, which is a winter chef-special, complimentary to all diners.  Next, we ordered the mezze appetizers which are NIS 48 per platter and one platter was more than enough for three of us. The beautifully presented platter, included Warm Lupin Beans with Black Cumin, Smoked Eggplant, Tabouleh, Creamy Hummus with Warm Chickpeas, Crushed Tomato Dip with Green Chili, Tahina, Amba, Schug and wonderfully crispy Green Falafel.  My favorite part of the platter was the bread which was a light and fluffy, savory pancake-like flatbread with a similar texture to an English crumpet.  The bread worked perfectly dipped in the various sauces and wrapped around the falafel.

For the main course, I chose Veal Schnitzel (NIS 75), one of my favorite dishes and hard to find in Jerusalem.  It was a very generous portion and the dish was tasty, but I found the meat to be too thin, which meant that there was more coating than meat and the meat was slightly overcooked.  I also prefer for a veal schnitzel to be served in one large piece, rather than several small pieces.

Veal Schnitzel

I tasted both the Aged Beef Entrecote Skewer (NIS 55 per skewer) and the Pargit Skewer (NIS 48) which were both good but the chicken was my favorite of all the mains.  There is the option to order two skewers or to mix and match, but one skewer was enough for us, especially after the delicious starters.

Two skewers of Aged Entrecote and Pargit, with Grilled Vegetables

All the main courses are served with a vegetable salad and a choice of side dishes, which include Wheat Freekeh and Lentil Majadara, Basmati Rice or Potato and Sweet Potato Fries.  We tried one of each and the mixed fries were the winner, as they were well coated and we especially liked the purple potato variety.

We accompanied our meal with a glass of the house red wine, Teperberg Impression Cabernet Sauvignon (NIS 28/glass, NIS 110/bottle) which was light and fruity wine.

To finish the meal, we tried three of the four desserts on the menu, each cost NIS 35.   My favorite was the Safra Semolina and Coconut Cake, covered in a warm spiced syrup and served with lemon sorbet. The cake was not overly sweet, despite the syrup, and the lemon sorbet, topped with lemon rind, provided a perfect sharpness to the dish. 

The Fruit Salad was served with blanched almonds, mini meringues and topped with cassis sorbet.  The sorbet was wonderfully smooth and flavorful and the meringues and almonds provided a crunch to the fruity dessert.  Lastly, we had the Falooda ice cream with a marzipan and pistachio “cigar”.  The Persian ice cream, made from glass noodles and rose sugar, was not to my taste, but the cigar, which was drizzled with a warm spiced honey, was delicious.

When tourists come to Jerusalem, they want to try local food and too many of the good restaurants in Jerusalem serve everything but Israeli food.  It is refreshing to find a restaurant in a hotel that is finally giving tourists what they want. For Jerusalemites, it is also great to have a restaurant for special occasions that offers a three-course meat meal, with a glass of wine, for less than NIS 200/person.

Scala will be open for Pesach and the chef already has the menu planned.  This year, the whole hotel will be Mehadrin for Pesach only.

Scala Restaurant (Kosher), The David Citadel Hotel, 7 King David Street, Jerusalem, 02 621 2030. Full English Menu, Sunday – Thursday, 18:00-22:00. Parking validation included.

Authentic Thai food in Downtown Haifa

There are two things that most young Israelis love – eating good food and traveling through Thailand, so I have always been surprised at the lack of authentic Thai food in Israel.

Luckily for those living in Haifa, Chang Ba is the real deal, no doubt thanks to its Thai sous-chef, Dam.

Chef Idan Lifshitz serves his favorite Thai street food and even grows some of his own herbs to make the dishes as authentic as possible. The restaurant was originally situated in a smaller location but moved last year to Hanamal Street in the popular downtown Haifa port area.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Chang Ba (Credit Avi Shumacher)

A Japanese Gem in Jerusalem

JLM Sushi offers a genuine taste of the Orient

On a recent trip to the US, I realized how much I miss authentic, clean sushi. So many of the sushi restaurants in Israel have adapted their menus to Israeli tastes by incorporating ingredients like cream cheese and smoked salmon, which have no place on a real sushi menu. Although there are some good sushi restaurants around the country, Jerusalem has very few.

So it was refreshing to find a sushi restaurant that offers simple, clean sushi, where the focus is on the quality of the fish. Despite the name, JLM Sushi is more of a Japanese bar with a variety of Japanese dishes, including sushi.

Chef Yankale Turjeman, owner and chef of 1868, Zuta and now JLM Sushi, hosted us in this intimate new bar. With such a small kitchen on the premises, it is not possible for the chef to create a menu to the level he desires, so he uses the larger kitchen in his 1868 restaurant to prepare some of the dishes on the JLM menu.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

JLM Sushi Credit - sivan shuv-ami

JLM Sushi: Credit – Sivan Shuv-Ami

Gourmandises by Yoel brings French gourmet to Jerusalem

Gourmandises by Yoel in Kikar Hamusica is an authentic French bistro run by the Afriat family.

Livnatt and Yoel Afriat were opticians in Paris with a number of their own shops, but they knew they wanted to change their careers to something that would be more easily transferable to Israel. So Yoel gave up being an optician to become a pastry chef and spent a year at Le Notre, one of Paris’s most prestigious cooking schools. Then he started his own patisserie business, selling his creations from the family home in Paris.

A chance meeting with the owner of Kikar Hamusica at a party in Paris in 2014 led to the Afriat family’s making aliya and the opening of Gourmandises by Yoel just six months later. All the pastries, breads and beautiful desserts are made by Afriat and his team from their factory in Talpiot, while the food for the restaurant is prepared by chef Oscar Zuckerman in the kitchen below the restaurant. Livnatt manages the restaurant and the catering business, which caters events at the restaurant itself for up to 200 people but also provides parve or dairy dessert buffets for weddings and other special occasions.

Many people think that Gourmandises by Yoel is just a bakery or pastry shop, but the varied menu offers so much more, so we were delighted to be invited to sample the dinner menu. In keeping with the musical theme, many of the dishes on the menu are named after French musicians.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Hanamal 24 is a European enclave in downtown Haifa

The small streets surrounding the Haifa port in the recently developed downtown Haifa area reminds me of many European cities, with bars and coffee shops spilling onto the cobbled streets and sidewalks. So it is very fitting that when you walk into Hanamal 24, the European theme continues, with the restaurant’s décor reminiscent of a rural Italian courtyard. Although the eatery seats 80 diners, the layout, with its numerous nooks and side rooms, creates an intimate space for all patrons, even on a busy night.

Hanamal 24 is the brainchild of restaurateur Guy Avital and chef Ran Rosh. Rosh trained in France and worked at a two-Michelin star restaurant before returning to Israel to start working with Avital. The menu is in the style of a traditional French bistro with Italian influences.

Avital recommended that we order the tasting menu (NIS 299) so we could try most of the restaurant’s signature dishes.

Click here for the full review in The Jerusalem Post

Rosemary Grissini (Credit Avi Shumacher)

Cream of Onion Soup (Credit Avi Shumacher)


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

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