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.

The Grand Cafe and Shakshuka

Running at 7:30am in Jerusalem is much better than running at 10:30am in Jerusalem. Holy cow, it’s hot!

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But…sleeping until 9:00 is much nicer than sleeping until 7:00. What’s a girl to do?!

In other news, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week and a half of exploration through my area of Jerusalem. I am living in the Baka neighborhood – southeast of the old city.

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There are a lot of French and American immigrants in Baka, and it is neighbor to another Anglo-area, HaMoshavah HaGermanit (the German Colony). The German Colony has a lot of Americans, Germans, and Europeans in general, and the cafes and languages heard on the street in both areas reflect peoples’ roots.

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Bagel Cafe in the German Colony

Both neighborhoods are fairly upscale and trendy, and the two areas are connected across a pedestrian walking and biking path called the rekevetRekevet means train in Hebrew, and the path is a tracks-to-trails project.

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Derech Beit Lechem is the main road in Baka while Emek Refaim is the primary thoroughfare cutting through the German Colony.

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While both are lined with cafes, restaurants, shops, and falafel joints, Emek Refaim is more bustling and has more establishments lining the road.

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This week, I went for lunch with a couple friends at The Grand Cafe – a lovely spot for any meal of the day. The cafe is right on Derech Beit Lechem in the middle of Baka, only a couple of blocks from my apartment.

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My friends both ordered the green shakshuka.

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Shakshuka is a popular food in Israel and throughout the Middle East. Traditionally, shakshuka is made by poaching eggs in a tomato sauce, often with onions, spices, and perhaps a little cheese on top. There are several variations, however, and this green shakshuka included spinach, leeks, and roasted tomatoes. The meal also came with a heaping basket of bread:

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Everything on the menu looked good, but I went with a fruits and vegetable salad that came with fresh fruit, roasted nuts, fried gnocchi, cheese, and a balsamic drizzle:

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The real reason I didn’t get shakshuka though was because I had plans to cook shakshuka with a friend later that night!

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We made a more traditional version with tomatoes, yellow pepper, and onion. Good food, good friends…yeah, I can get used to living here. 🙂

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