Ethnic food in Jerusalem

While Israel likes to stay true to its hummus and falafel roots (and I often hear people joke that you know you’ve accepted the Israeli lifestyle when you are willing to eat hummus for any meal of the day), there is also a smattering of ethnic restaurants around. Some of these restaurants are jokingly belittled for sub-par attempts at ethnic cuisine, but others are actually quite good. Here are a few non-Middle Eastern food restaurants from around Jerusalem that I’ve tried:

1. Kangaroo

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Kangaroo is a Georgian restaurant near the Ben Yehuda area. The menu is comprised of various meat stews and other traditional Georgian dishes. I ordered a salad sampler plate with various types of salads and spreads:

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I don’t think I had ever had Georgian food prior to Kangaroo, and it’s always fun to try something new! I don’t think it’s a new favorite though, and I would probably prioritize other types of food…or, let’s be real, just eat more hummus.

2. Sushi Rehavia

Sushi Rehavia is a popular sushi/Japanese cuisine chain in Jerusalem. There are a few locations around the city, and I know lots of people who like to use their delivery service. I’m not generally a big sushi fan, but a big part of that is that it’s very difficult to avoid non-kosher seafood at sushi restaurants in the U.S. So, it seemed like a kosher sushi restaurant in Israel would be my best bet for a good sushi experience!

I went to Sushi Rehavia a couple weeks ago with Noah and our friend Avi, and the food was really good! We ordered a few combo sushi plates and a ramen noodle soup (yes, ramen noodles are something besides highly-processed, 99-cent bags of disease-causing preservatives).

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The soup was soooo yummy (as was the sushi, but I mainly ate the soup). I would definitely recommend a visit to Sushi Rehavia.

3. Ness Cafe

The intersection at Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu has recently undergone some changes. The main storefront previously occupied by Marvad Haksamim has now been taken over by Ness Cafe. But, Marvad Haksamim fans, do not despair. Marvad has simply moved a couple storefronts over on Rachel Imenu to the small shop previously occupied by Ness. Basically, Ness used to only sell coffee and take-out desserts while Marvad had a full restaurant and ran their famous Friday, prepared food for Shabbat business from the restaurant. Now, after swapping spaces, Ness is offering a full restaurant menu and Marvad is only doing take-out food. The interior of Ness is bright and friendly with lots of full-length windows:

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I had bought some desserts from Ness Cafe when it was only a bakery, and everything was quite tasty so I was excited to try the restaurant. As a bakery, Ness had promoted itself as a French establishment (presumably owned by Frenchies). It has kept its same French spirit after becoming a full restaurant…perhaps most notably evidenced by the fact that it had no English menu – only French and Hebrew. WUT?????? This is unheard of in Jerusalem restaurants. Seems like they’re making a statement that the gentrified German Colony area isn’t only American turf anymore (which is already pretty evident from the ever-increasing presence of French language on the streets in these parts. It’s no wonder really, I don’t think I would want to be Jewish in France).

Noah and I chose the Hebrew menu and I was pleased that my Hebrew skills were sufficient enough to enable us to order a salad and pizza:

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The food was good, but it didn’t stand out as particularly different or noteworthy from many of the other cafes around Jerusalem. I think Ness’s main draw remains in its dessert and coffee options.

4. Moshe Burger

*the following three sentences are written with a slightly sarcastic tone
Why is America always getting overlooked for its contributions to world cuisine? Seriously, who doesn’t love a good burger?! Sometimes all you need is a juicy hunk of perfectly-shaped and grilled ground beef, dripping with [insert favorite sauce here].

I fulfilled this basic human need for a good burger a few weeks ago at the Moshe Burger inside Cinema City. Why yes, we went to Cinema City again. 🙂 Moshe Burger had a very sleek ambiance, but the menu and atmosphere was still goofy and fun.

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I ordered a classic burger with a combo of beef and lamb meat, and Noah ordered a set of three sliders (their menu includes lots of creative burger toppings as well as a rotating menu of burger specials):

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Yum yum yum. This was probably the best burger I’ve had in Israel…no doubt in large part because it has been near impossible to get a fully-cooked burger in this country. Holy COW (pun intended to reference the practically living raw meat that has been smushed between two halves of a bun in my previous burger-ordering attempts). Bottom line, go to Moshe Burger and you will be happy.

And since I mentioned Cinema City and, I’m sure, piqued your interest…

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Noah and I are still as enamored as always with the ridiculous show of excess and American culture at this place:

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We saw the movie The Water Diviner in the Twilight Theater. Yes, you heard me, there is a Twilight Theater:

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Admittedly, it was a little hard to focus on Russell Crowe looking for his lost sons who were reportedly killed during the battle at Gallipoli during WWI (basic plot of The Water Diviner) when Edward Cullen was looking down on me…but somehow I managed.

Jerusalem Cafes: Round 5

Continuing my Jerusalem Cafes series, here are a few more places I’ve been to in the last several weeks. Enjoy the pictures of delicious food…where do you want to go out to eat next?

First, I tried a cafe on Emek Refaim called Ben Ami. I had heard several times that Ben Ami serves allstar drinks and desserts and also has a nice ‘real’ food menu. To drink, we ordered sahlab (an Arabic drink made with flour from a orchid, rose water, milk, often topped with coconut, cinnamon, and nuts, and popularly sold during the winter months in Israel) and a hot apple/wine cider.

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For the meal, we shared toast (in Israeli menu jargon, this means an open-faced sandwich) with pesto and mozzarella and a potato dumplings dish:

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Next up was Colony. Colony is a restaurant tucked off of Derech Beit Lechem near the entrance to the rekevet. The burgers coming out of their kitchen looked amazing, but I ended up ordering homemade gnocchi instead. How could I resist this?!

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My dining partner ordered a pesto stuffed chicken breast, and we shared a dish of mushrooms in puff pastry:

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Since I’ve been living here long enough to have some *favorites*, I also returned to a couple places I’ve posted about before.

Kalo on Derech Beit Lechem is only a few short minutes from my apartment, and it is delicious for any meal of the day! You can see my post from a previous visit to Kalo here. Their outside patio area is bursting every Friday morning (and most mornings besides!), and I am personally a huge fan of the delicious grain bread they bring to the table with every meal. Noah and I went to Kalo for dinner a few weeks ago and ordered an eggplant focaccia and salad (with fried cheese, beets, apples, and walnuts) to share:

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I also returned to Caffit on Emek Refaim. I think Caffit is now tied with the Grand Cafe for my most-visited restaurant. I posted about Caffit before here, and Noah and I liked it so much we went there for Noah’s last breakfast before he left for a big trip a few weeks ago (yes, I have been ALONE!!!). Noah went for the Israeli breakfast:

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Classic.

I ordered a toasted bagel sandwich filled with hard-boiled egg, cheese, zaatar (a mediterranean spice with a distinctive green color) and veggies:

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I also ordered a lemonana (a blended lemonade and mint beverage that’s popular in Israel – nana means ‘mint’ in Hebrew):

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If you missed them, check out my other Jerusalem Cafe posts here:

Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4

Emek Refaim Food Finds

As mentioned previously, Emek Refaim is the  main road going through the German Colony in Jerusalem. The street is packed with shops, restaurants, cafes, and people from places including – but not limited to – the United States, France, England, Germany, and of course Israel.

Emek Refaim is only about a 10 minute walk from my apartment, and the Ulpan that I’m attending is on Emek, so it’s been easy enough to check out some of the enticing eateries lining the street. Last week, I went to a couple restaurants on Emek with a friend.

Despite the long-standing joke about American Jews loving Chinese food, there are not too many Chinese restaurants here in Jerusalem. There is, however, lots of sushi! An exception to the hard-to-find-Chinese-food rule is Soya, located on the corner of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu.

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Many Israeli restaurants have lunch time specials that include salads or other appetizers free with your meal. So, since we were there for lunch time, our meal started with a small salad. We also shared an order of vegetable eggrolls.

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For our meals, we ordered mandarin chicken and a house chicken dish served with tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and a honeyed date sauce. Both meals were served with rice that seemed to have been cooked in soy sauce.

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The food was good although there was a lot (especially for lunch!) so we took home leftovers.

At the same intersection of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu is also Marvad Haksamim. Marvad Haksamim specializes in traditional Israeli cuisine and soul food: lots of hummus, kubbeh, kebabs, stuffed vegetables, salatim, and pickles (to name a few). After being seated, we were brought a Middle Eastern version of a bread basket:

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Salouf (a Yemenite flat bread) was served warm from the oven with a tomato dip (almost like salsa except not spicy), cucumber pickles, and pickled carrot salad. We also got a side order of hummus because clearly the salouf was in need of a delicious chickpea/tahini mashup…

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For the meal, we ordered chamusta kubbeh soup (ground meat filled dumplings with celery, summer squash, and a flavorful broth) and an appetizer sampler which came with fried kubbeh (balls of dough filled with ground meat and fried), moroccan cigars (ground meat wrapped in phyllo dough), vine leaves stuffed with rice, and something that seemed like a fried wonton but I don’t know exactly what it was! The appetizers were served with a sweet tomato sauce and tahini.

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Every Friday, Marvad does a take-away buffet for Shabbat where people can buy breads, desserts, and all sorts of prepared appetizers and entrees to have and serve over Shabbat. I recently realized that there’s a coupon book in my apartment which includes a 10%-off coupon for Marvad Haksamim Friday take-away…so maybe I’ll have to try it sometime!

 And for coffee…The Coffee Mill is a welcome sight for anyone who likes a plain old cup of coffee. While espresso beverages and cafe culture are in top form, a plain cup of coffee seems to have been left behind in Israel. If you want just a regular, non-espresso coffee beverage, then you’re generally faced with either instant Nescafe of Turkish Coffee which – despite having gone through a more complex roasting process – is extremely similar to Nescafe except with smaller grounds.

The Coffee Mill, however, offers a wide selection of espresso AND coffee beverages. An entire wall of the shop is devoted to beans in multiple flavors and from all across the world for people to buy by the kilo and take home.

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But don’t worry – lest you think plain coffee makes things boring – The Coffee Mill still has a wide selection of exciting espresso beverages and yummy treats.

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And the final stop on the Emek food tour…

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…an impromtu lemonade and popcorn stand set up by some kids in front of a supermarket! I got a lemonade (with mint leaves!) for 2 shekels. Totally worth it. 🙂