|7 HaMa'alot Street, Jerusalem Tel: 02-5004334|
I was at a Sephardi Israeli wedding a few weeks ago. Our table was a blend of native Israelis and Anglo immigrants from Neve Daniel. I mentioned -- not complaining, mind you, just stating facts -- that I hadn't had good steak since I'd left Baltimore, but that this was a small sacrifice to be permitted to live in Israel.
One of the Israelis told me I was mistaken, that one could get good steak in Israel. I assumed that he has been eating watered-down Argentinian beef with soy fillers for most of his adult life, and simply doesn't "get it." But I don't like to be rude, so I asked for more and better particulars. He gave the names and details of a couple of places in Jerusalem. He made "Ma'alot Chef Restaurant and Tapas Bar" sound particularly succulent.
On yom rishon (Sunday, to you landlubbers), we arrived at around 4:30 for a late lunch. We were happy to see that the charming young woman was in "her" restaurant. She remembered us, and was very pleased to see us. We in turn praised her attitude, and told her that treating us so warmly made us anxious to return.
|Our new friend, Miriam. Can't wait to tell her mama what a good job she did raising her.|
As we waited a not-very-long time at all for our meal to be brought out to us, we had the chance to look around the warm and inviting room.
|Another old friend of our children, who we hope will become a new friend of ours.|
Dining is Israel is not just falafel and shwarma. One of the treats of dining out here is being offered salatim -- small, interesting and varied salads -- as an appetizer. Called variously meze, tapas, "small plates," this Middle Eastern offering seems to be of Spanish origin. I have often made a meal of tapas, as I don't need huge portions of beef and potato and bread to feel that I've had a meal. So I asked for something that would give me a sample of many different dishes. For a very reasonable price (50 shekels, which translates today to around $14), I tasted some of the most carefully-crafted mini-dining experiences I have ever encountered. (Please keep in mind that I dined in my share of five-star restaurants, back in the mists of pre-kosher past, at much higher prices. Kids: you ain't missin' nothin'. We've got it all.)
Here are a few of the choices I finally settled on, for my first "test drive" at Ma'alot. Go ahead. Feast your eyes.
|The duck breast in a bed of tiny leaves and dried fruits in vinaigrette was "to die for." Forget steak. This time.|
|Even the Dearly Beloved had to admit that the earthy, robust eggplant soup was perfect.|
|Talk about beautiful "plating technique"!|
|The little "meat latkes" mixed with leek were a delicate foil to more spicy dishes.|
|Since this was a celebration, the Dearly Beloved also sprang for a couple of Tuborg Reds.|
|The Dearly Beloved isn't satisfied with wafer-thin slices of anything, no matter how much you charge for it.|
|Gadi and Gilad seem to have learned to work and play well with others in their parents' home.|
And because this was a celebration -- I said that before, right? -- Gadi didn't have to twist our arms too much to get us to sample a very special, high-quality arak to top off the meal.
This excellent little restaurant has only been around for about five months. I give Gadi and Co. a bracha that they will succeed in attracting the kind of clientele that will keep them in business until Gadi is a very old and wealthy restaurateur. He certainly knows his art. We plan to visit often. Hope to see you there.
"Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came..."
-- from the "Cheers" theme, by Judy Hart Angelo and Gary Portnoy