Thursday, November 23, 2017

Touring Middle East 14: Kosher Dinner

Searching online for "Best Kosher Restaurant in Jerusalem" led us to Eucalyptus near the Old City. I felt one can't get a full grasp of Jerusalem cuisine without trying at least one proper Kosher meal, plus we were right in the middle of Jewish Sukkot celebration so it just seemed culturally appropriate doing so too. So one afternoon after returning from our sightseeing activities, I asked the hotel to make the booking for us for dinner at the restaurant in the same evening.

By the third night in Jerusalem we had a much better sense of directions of the neighborhood around the Old City, so it's an easy tram ride and a quick 10 minute walk from our hotel to the restaurant, located in the Artists' Colony not far away from Jaffa Gate of the Old City. The restaurant was right by the steps leading to a park and we asked to be seated outside, right next to the sukkah, a temporary straw hut built for Jews celebrating the traditional Sukkot festival. (as described in Leviticus 23:42 to commemorate God's provision to the Isralites in the time of wilderness)

Eucalyptus, headed by Chef Moshe Basson, has the reputation of specializing in Israeli-Biblical cuisine, as dishes were based on ancient Middle-eastern Kosher recipe using local ingredients, many with its origins in biblical history. We began with a pair of appetizer dishes - first the roast cauliflower with tahini and tomato-lemon cream, and then the eggplant with aged pomegranate syrup. Both we saw in almost every restaurant but both came with a slight twist here. The cauliflower has good smoky flavor with the creamy tomato sauce served underneath for the slight tangy-ness. On the menu it mentioned "Har Bracha Tahini", which I came to learn after it's a type made from the Samarian village of Har Bracha which produces the best tahini using pure sesame taste. Meanwhile the eggplant - roasted to totally soft in texture, was sweet thanks for the pomegranate syrup, and also added to some pleasant aroma to the dish.

We didn't have St. Peter's Fish (a type of freshwater tilapia commonly found in Sea of Galilee hence the name - Jesus' disciple Peter is a fisherman from Galilee, for those who aren't familiar with Bible stories) so we thought we should have that at least once before we left Israel. The whole fillet was poached, topped with zaatar and served with potato puree, fennel cream and a few pieces of roasted root vegetables. Zaatar is a local herb mix with thyme, hyssop and sumac that probably went back to Old Testament times and now used either as topping in bread or dip, or as spice rub for meat and seafood. Too often we had too much cream and butter in our potato puree but this one was done without dairy product (of course) and was smooth and tasty. The fish has a delicate texture and went well with the herbs. Wasn't the best-looking in terms of presentation but it was delicious.

We were curious about the description of the Jerusalem Siniya dish so we ordered one as well. It arrived in a deep bowl, with minced lamb and beef, slow-roasted garden vegetables, Har Bracha Tahini layers in, with bottom of the bowl lined with pita bread ("to soak up the goodness", as the menu described) Think of it as a mixture of savory trifle and cottage pie and it was delicious and filling, to the extent we had to forgo dessert after finishing the dish.

Overall I would say the food was interesting - not the best type I would be drooling over or get excited about but it's good for us to experience some traditional dishes of this region. But do beware the portion is super huge - we were tempted to do the tasting menu (with even more courses) but we would have struggled to finish everything if we did.

When? October 10 2017
Where? Eucalyptus, Artist's Colony/Felt alley (between Hativat Yerushalayim 14 and Dror Eliel st.), Jerusalem, Israel
Menu Highlights? Roast cauliflower with Har Bracha Tahini and tomato-lemon cream

(Touring Middle East - Part 14)

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