Israel is a country with a rich history; in its current format as the Jewish state, as Mandatory Palestine between 1917 and 1948 and prior to that as a part of the Ottoman and other Empires. Today the main population is Jewish with a large number of Arabs, Druze and Circassians. As the Jewish homeland and a refuge from persecution it has attracted Jews from all over the world. One of the very positive results of this is the variety of cuisines that one can expect to find in Israel and particularly in Jerusalem, the capital. Mandatory Palestine saw many Jews escaping to the Middle East from the pogroms of Eastern Europe and subsequently from the horrors of the holocaust. They brought with them the traditional Jewish foods - chicken soup, chopped liver, Gefilte fish (sweet fishballs). Subsequent to the State of Israel being set up, a large wave of immigration from Muslim lands followed, again mainly due to negative forces in the country of origin. This meant another wave of little old Jewish Grandmas bringing their culinary secrets, this time hot and spicy foods from Iraq, Yemen and North Africa, the antithesis of some of the fairly bland European foods. Israel has also attracted immigrants from France where a current wave of antisemitism is contributing to the movement, from South America and from pretty much every other country around the globe to which the people of the book were exiled. In addition the popularity of backpacking amongst Israeli youth has seen a further way of foods from the Far East introduced. Food which has been eaten by Jew, Muslim and Christian in the Holy Land for the last 3000 years still holds a central place in the culture too - there is room for tradition! The result is that there are a huge number of tasty, authentic national cuisines packed into a very small country (Israel is smaller than Wales). This has become heightened as Moroccan Jew marries Indian Jew etc w
ith the result that incredible fusions are produced! Although by no means all of the restaraunts in the mixed city of Jerusalem are kosher, there are more than enough to keep all but the most demanding eater happy. At the same time however, it is important to remember that Jerusalem is a focal point for three major faiths and therefore it is possible to find bacon and eggs served next door to restaraunts serving only Halal or Kosher meat! If you are in Israel then the International Herald Tribune has an excellent general restaraunt guide in its Friday edition which covers the best restaraunts in the country. A further resource is www.eluna.com - a website covering kosher restaraunts only. These are a few of my favourite places. If you would like a little more info - I'll be happy to provide it! Steak Although there are several decent steak restaraunts in Jerusalem I have two particular favourites. 1. Pampa Grill, Rivlin St. South American style. Bang in the centre of town at the junction with Jaffa Street, Jerusalem's main east-west thoroughfare, this is a meat eaters paradise. There are no airs and graces about the place. Meat is cooked on a huge charcoal grill in the South American style which means in large quantities. As a big eater I can usually devour a portion 'for two' on my own. The mixed grill 'for two' here is enormous and more than ample for two hearty appetites and is not expensive. Highly recommended and excellent value for money. 2. Wooden Horse (Soos Etz) 3 Yaabetz St. French style. Also steaks and other meat but in a more formal style with various sauces and plenty of goose liver with everything! Although more expensive than your average meat restaraunt the food is excellent, well presented and imaginative. I recommend the Entrecote Soos Etz, served with goose liver and wild mushrooms with a pepper sauce. In addition if you are pining for the service that Israe
li restaraunts generally lack then this is the place - the waitresses are attentive and professional. Grill restaraunts - traditional to the region Meat cooked simply on the grill is one of my favourite treats. Whether served in pitta bread with hummus or on a plate with salad and chips it is a local favourite. Jerusalem's grill restarunts are generally concentrated in two areas; along Agrippas St next to the Mahaneh Yehuda Souk or in the Talpiot neighbourhood. In either case the food is delicious - my advice is to stick to poultry rather than beef as you have a better idea what you are getting. On Agrippas there is Sami's, Sima's, Shipudei Hagefen and Ima for sit down meals. My favourite however is Steakiyat Hatzot where the speciality is Jerusalem Mixed Grill (Meurav Yerushalmi) served in pitta. This has a variety of poultry parts, often identifiable and is absolutely delicious! In Talpiot, various places line the main street Yad Harutzim. My favourite is Steakiyat Tzion Hakatan. A little bit further along, not strictly in the grill category is a South American style chicken grill called Poyo Loco which I also recommend. One further place that deserves a mention is Marvad Haksamim - the Magic Carpet which mixes together traditional Jewish dishes such as chopped liver with Iraqi pittas and grilled meats. Cheap and very filling for a sit down meal. Next to the Hamashbir building in town. Oriental A few choices - Yossi Peking (!) has just moved to new premises at Bet Agron in town and has a pretty good and fairly tasty menu. YoJa on Emek Refaim St has an eclectic Asian menu served in a modern setting. Rungsit opposite the Inbal hotel serves elegant Thai food and is very tasty. There are also plenty of Thai noodle bars - after their army service it is an Israeli rite of passage to tour the far east and this was one of the things that they brought back! Take away Altho
ugh Jerusalem has Burger King, KFC and MacDonalds (the latter not kosher), IMHO the best burger is at Burgers Bar on Shammai St right in the middle of down town. A friendly little place where the burger doesn't taste of plastic, the chips are made of potato and the variety of sauces includes garlic mayonnaise, pesto and a spicy sauce which is just right in terms of heat! In addition there is pizza hut, Sbarro pizza and many other pizza places. Milky I'm not a big dairy restaraunt fan (due to dietary laws kosher restaraunts are usually split up into meaty and milky). For pizza and pasta there are two that I do like - Sergios on Agrippas and Angelos on Horkanos. Both serve a wide range of pastas, sauces and pizza toppings. In addition there are lots of classier joints but if I want to spend lots of money I expect to do so on steak! Bottom line - lots of places to eat in Jerusalem. I haven't even gone into other choices like Mexican, Yemenite, Kurdish, Sushi, French but they are all there! Wander downtown, head down the main streets of Ben Yehuda, Yoel Salomon, Rivlin and Nahalat Shiva and take your choice. Then head onto a bar - see my article under 'Jerusalem bars' for a few ideas in that category.