Tense, sacred, complicated – even with its long history and persistent stigmas, there’s something else that can be said with confidence about Jerusalem. The city often pays no mind to what’s said about it, and continues to offer innovative dining options that are full of character and don’t compromise on quality. Jerusalem has certainly undergone a revolution in terms of food and restaurants. Once a place with only a limited number of (mostly kosher) fine restaurants, today it brims with a splendid variety of culinary attractions that appeal to many tastes and still preserve some of the city’s unique charm. Whether you’re in the mood for a lavish breakfast, a relaxing meal with the family or a late night snack with a drink to round out your evening, you can find it here.
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One of the city’s undisputed culinary institutions is the enchanting Mona restaurant situated in Jerusalem Artists’ House. Mona is in a winning location and has an ambience that will make you feel like you’ve found a secret culinary jewel in some European hamlet. Here you will find a precisely constructed menu and a serious professional team. Mona is run by Moshiko Gamlieli and Itamar Navon, who offer elegant dishes and a wine menu that enhances the whole vibe.
Mona’s menu perfectly reflects a passion for the classics, with a small and self-confident selection of French bistro-type dishes. Among the tempting first courses are the Tartare de Boeuf with chipotle aioli and quail’s egg yolk (64 shekels) and red tuna sashimi with chili oil, labaneh and oregano (68 shekels). For a main course, you can treat yourself to a fish fillet with beurre blanc (136 shekels) and top it all off with one of the most brilliant desserts anywhere in the city – a chestnut and mascarpone tart with creme anglaise and cinnamon ice cream (44 shekels).
Mona, 12 Shmuel Hanagid Street. Not kosher
Gourmet dining in the shuk
There’s no need to elaborate very much on a place that has become one of the country’s hottest restaurants in recent years. Assaf Granit and Uri Navon’s Machneyuda has succeeded as few other Jerusalem restaurants have in becoming a national and international culinary destination (see interview, page 26). On your first visit, you’ll probably need a waiter’s assistance to understand the menu, but the important thing is the wonderfully energetic and fun atmosphere you’ll find here. Besides the joyful clamor and upbeat music, one has to admit that this is a spectacular restaurant with virtuosic, uncompromising food.
If you decide to skip the famous polenta dish that is responsible for the national addiction to truffle oil (54 shekels), you can find other bold first courses, intriguing interim courses, and main courses that do joyous justice to the term “fusion.” Among them are the black linguini with bacon and crabs (118 shekels); or the mound of seafood in a stock made from chicken and Jerusalem artichokes (148 shekels). The restaurant is also well known for its superlative service, so even if you find yourself a bit taken aback by the menu at first, one of the staff will most likely rise to the challenge and construct just the right meal to make your visit unforgettable.
Machneyuda, 10 Beit Yaakov Street. Not kosher
Stylish little sister
Machneyuda’s little sister restaurant, Hasadna, offers a much lighter and more relaxed experience. The gorgeous space and restrained design create a pleasant, laid-back atmosphere that easily lends itself to the dining experience without a lot of fuss. In addition to the copious menu and the obvious professionalism reflected in the food, you’ll also find top-notch service, alcoholic drinks of every type and color, and one of the best cocktail menus anywhere in the country.
The varied menu at Hasadna doesn’t feature unusual combinations and complex techniques. What it does offer is excellent, hearty dishes using the finest ingredients, which will entice you to return again and again. For starters, there’s the fish ceviche with fruit, chili, citrus vinaigrette and yogurt (56 shekels); follow that up with cigars stuffed with seafood, pickles and lemon aioli (63 shekels). Then a marvelous main course of purple calamari with white chorizo filling (112 shekels) or a select cut of grilled meat: a 330-gram veal entrecote (146 shekels) or a T-bone or New York steak (28 shekels per 100 grams).
Hasadna, 28 Hebron Road. Not kosher
Paris on Shlomzion
Ask almost any Jerusalemite where to go for breakfast, and they’ll send you to the famous Café Kadosh on Shlomzion Hamalka Street. In the morning and early afternoon, you’ll have to wait at least a few minutes for a table (especially on Fridays), but as soon as you’re seated and start sipping the excellent coffee, the body relaxes and the appetite awakens. This is a veteran Jerusalem eatery, originally opened by Meir Kadosh in 1967 as a small bakery. Today the place is run by his son Itzik, who together with his wife Keren (who is in charge of the spectacular pastries on offer here), welcome a large number of eager customers daily.
What to eat here? Kadosh is a kosher dairy restaurant; the display case is filled with superb cakes and there is an intoxicating scent of butter. And you will also find a selection of wonderful breakfasts such as the Kadosh version of Croque Madame – a pair of brioche filled with Sainte Maure de Touraine and Gouda cheeses and poached egg (56 shekels). Another breakfast features a savory pastry with ricotta, Hollandaise sauce and poached egg (56 shekels). And no matter how filling and comforting the meal may be, don’t dare walk out the door without trying at least one of Keren’s croissants or eclairs.
Café Kadosh, 6 Shlomzion Hamalka Street. Kosher
You can’t talk about the stars of the capital’s culinary scene without giving due respect to the legendary Chakra. For nearly two decades, this place has been serving devoted customers night after night, first from its nostalgic location on Shlomzion Hamalka Street and now in a spacious incarnation next to Independence Park. Chakra is one of those dependable restaurants where you can always count on an enjoyable meal that is well-made, but doesn’t strive to be overly sophisticated, and an atmosphere that will suit any mood. Whether you’re out for a family meal or if you’re just in the mood for a drink and a good snack at the bar, Chakra is the place.
Chakra offers a wide variety of food in many styles. The extensive menu has something for everyone and includes classic dishes like the pani puri with salmon tartare, peanuts, hot chili, mint, crème fraiche and green curry (74 shekels); a simple and delicious burrata cheese with tomatoes, olives and Balsamic vinegar (64 shekels), and a terrific lemon tart for dessert (45 shekels).
Chakra, 41 King George Street. Not kosher
A Jerusalem classic
At the city’s newly designed First Station complex, you’ll find Adom – a familiar name on the Jerusalem culinary scene. Thinking about the restaurant in its original location in the Feingold Courtyard will probably bring a wistful smile to any Jerusalemite reading these lines. Luckily, Adom’s move to its present location did not affect the quality of the food and the overall dining experience.
Chef Elran Buzaglo whips up classic dishes here with a special hint of Jerusalem. For a starter you can try the Adom sabich with eggplant, pickled lemon, parsley and poached egg (52 shekels); a liver paté that will be superb with a glass of wine (48 shekels); and a salmon tartare with sour cream (52 shekels). Among the main courses, you can enjoy artichoke and goat cheese ravioli; lamb asado (120 shekels); and pasta with seafood, coconut milk, ginger and cilantro (102 shekels).
Adom, First Station, 4 David Remez Street. Not kosher
Ever since this Italian restaurant opened in the Anna Ticho House, it has been garnering widespread praise, and with good reason. Situated in a beautiful, pastoral location in the heart of the city, Anna provides an outstanding experience of unpretentious dairy Italian food. It also supports a worthy social cause by employing at-risk youth who take part in the restaurant’s daily operations. Besides the fantastic main dishes, if you come early enough you’ll also find a breakfast menu that will fill you with energy to start the day off right.
The evening menu offers a variety of Italian dishes that aren’t out to change the world, but every delightful bite will convince you that one needn’t reinvent the wheel to claim culinary excellence. Don’t miss out on the gnocchi, made on the spot and served with crème fraiche, tomatoes and asparagus (56 shekels). Another excellent choice is the delicate pappardelle with lemon butter and fish fillet (88 shekels). Then there are the marvelous desserts, like tiramisu and lemon pie.
Anna Italian Cafe, Anna Ticho House, 10 HaRav Agan Street. Kosher