Sunday, 23 June 2019

Food in the Middle East, five: Meals in Jerusalem

This is the fifth in a new series of posts based on the Middle East trip I completed in May with a friend. This series has already touched on breakfasts, lunches and dinners in Jordan, sweets, and the matter (an important one) of pickles and olives in ME cuisine. 

This time I want to talk about the lunches and dinners that we ate in Jerusalem, where we stayed for a week. We were in two hotels during this time as the first hotel we chose, the YMCA Three Arches, didn’t have availability for all of the days we planned to be in Israel. So on day four we moved to a kind of studio apartment setup called the Alon Hotel which is located nearby but a bit further north in the centre of West Jerusalem.

On the first day in Jerusalem we had lunch in the hotel restaurant. I had maklouba with chicken (a dish that mainly features a type of savoury rice that we had eaten on the first day in Petra for lunch) and my travelling companion had spaghetti all’olio. My meal was not as good as what you can get in Jordan, or at least not as good as the best Jordanian meals. With two beers and a cafe mocha the tab came to 199ILS (about A$80) which is about the same as a comparable restaurant would charge for similar items in Sydney.

For dinner we went a bit further afield and ate at a place called Focaccia Bar that was noisy with customers. We stood around for about 10 minutes before getting a table and then we ordered some seafood marinara, a salad with baby tomatoes, bocconcini and anchovies, and a plate of chicken with a mushroom sauce. The seafood came with bread. Even at 9pm people were still ordering food. What we ordered was too much for the two of us and with the two Leffe Blonde beers and a red grapefruit juice the tab came to 277ILS (A$110).

On day two in the city in the old town at 12.50pm we entered a Korean restaurant and ordered some soup with rice and a bibimbap. With a Coke the tab came to 103ILS (A$41). Later we left the hotel to have dinner and walked south along King David Street to George Washington Street where we turned west. The restaurant (see photo below) I had picked up from Google is named Angelica and it is located inside a limestone building on this street.

We sat down without a booking and I ordered a Shapiro beer, which had a sweet, rich taste and was a craft beer brewed locally in Jerusalem. I ordered a main of salmon and my friend ordered a bowl of zucchini and mushroom soup and an endive salad. Before this arrived we got some complimentary dips and fresh bread rolls. The dips (see photo below) were basil aioli, eggplant, and dried tomato and when we had finished the rolls the waitress brought us some more (at 9.05pm). We shared the salad and for dessert we ordered tapioca pearls with coconut cream and fresh fruit. With this came some dessert wine (two glasses for me) that was also on the house. It was called “Ice Wine” and was made at Hevon, a town located about 30 minutes’ drive south of the capital. The meal came to 365ILS (A$145).

On day three on Mamilla Avenue at 12.30pm we entered a restaurant called Fresh Coffee and Kitchen and ordered an Indian curry, which came with rice, in the Japanese style, in a mound separate from the cooked veges (potato, zucchini, whole garlic cloves, onion), and what was called a “Tricolor funghi mozzarella”, which was twisty-shaped pasta with a mushroom sauce and pieces of mozzarella cheese. In addition we ordered a Tuborg beer and a cappuccino. The meal cost 186ILS (A$74).

Later we went out to find some dinner and headed down the hill toward the old town. There was a sign for a restaurant I had seen on Google Maps called Te’enim and we headed through a park that had flowering trees in it until we reached a building set off to the side. Inside we took a table at 7pm and ordered labane (a type of yoghurt dip) with sundried tomatoes, which came with brown bread, a cold zucchini and yoghurt soup, some steamed greens that came with a date sauce called celane and pieces of goat’s cheese, and a mushroom stew (see photo below) that came with cracked wheat and pumpkin. I had two beers and the meal was way too big for two people and I took the pumpkin back to the hotel when we left the restaurant. The meal came to 231ILS (A$92).

On day four after moving hotels we walked a short distance across the street to McDonald’s and used a touch screen terminal to order some lunch. This was a chicken tortilla as a regular meal with a diet Coke, and an Amsterdam burger as a large meal with a Coke. The food came to 103ILS (A$41) and after paying with banknotes and coins I took the receipt (which was printed all in Hebrew except for the numbers) and we waited for the meal to be prepared. Some of the staff in the restaurant wore the hijab and all were women apart from the store manager. He came over to us when we had almost finished eating and asked in English if we had everything we needed. We asked for some more serviettes and he brought some over to our table. A series of pop tunes played on the sound system in the store including Marvin Gaye’s ‘Mercy Mercy Me’.

At 6.30pm in a restaurant named Rimon Bistro where ‘Hotel California’ was playing on the stereo. We ordered a ragu Bolognese and a plate of house goulash (see photo below). Both were tasty but as usual with meals in Israel there was too much food. I had a beer and we also ordered a bottle of mineral water. The tab came to 167ILS (A$66) and at 7.05pm we left the restaurant.

On day five at about 11.45am we went into a bakery on King George Street to have some food, which came to 59ILS (A$23.50). The food was a kind of canned tuna and vege concoction (zucchini, eggplant, potato) on a baked base, and a tiramisu. We also bought a bottle of Sprite.

Later, after 4pm, we went to Mamilla Avenue and entered another Cafe Rimon, where we ordered some fried sea bass with greens, an Asian salad that came with bok choy, zucchini, green beans, and noodles, and a pasta that was shaped like little combs that came with pesto. I had a Regina beer and my friend had a kind of smoothie made with strawberries and dates. The tab came to 270ILS (A$107) and I gave a tip of 20ILS. We took some of the salad home with us as, as is usual here, the meal was too big.

On day six near Ben Yehuda Street we went into Cafe Rimon (the same place we had eaten at on day four) and sat down for lunch at 2.55pm. We ordered an Asian salad and what was called on the menu an “umami” pizza (potato, mushroom, onion, fetta cheese), along with two Tuborg beers and a bottle of mineral water. The tab came to 134ILS (about A$60, not much more than the McDonald’s we had eaten in the city) and I added 10ILS as a tip because a waitress had brought us some Tabasco sauce to use on the salad. We didn’t have any dinner because it was so hot but later I had a small tub of ice cream at a shop on Jaffa Street.

On day seven at midday after we had returned to the Jaffa Gate we stopped to have some lunch at a cafe on Mamilla Avenue. We had a tuna sandwich and an omelette sandwich, and a cappuccino and a hot chocolate. The tab came to 89ILS (A$35). After eating we left the cafe at 12.25pm and headed back to the hotel. Back in the old town at 6.05pm we went into the Armenian Tavern (see photo of the interior, below) and ordered an Ararat steak, a green salad, a Goldstar beer and a glass of mango juice. The food did the job and we paid (174ILS, equal to A$70) and left.

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