There are compelling reasons for people of all faiths to visit Jerusalem, it is literally the crossroads of modern civilization- but one reason that no one can debate over is that it is currently the epicenter of a food explosion. The innovation and vibrancy of flavors and dishes is something everyone should experience if they consider themselves “foodies”.
The list of sites to visit in Jerusalem is extensive, and depending on your interests you can be kept busy for days. In this post I’m just going to provide a tempting list of where you might like to refuel during your historical and cultural explorations.
Our home base during our trip was The King David Hotel , a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, and one with great historical significance, The Hotel opened its doors in 1931 and has hosted virtually every head of state and dignitary since. It also has an incredible view of the Old City and the Western Wall. Our chariot for the week was this cheerful bus which made a quick stop at the top of Mount Scopus to give us an overview of the City.
You can’t help but be moved by the first glimpse of Jerusalem.
From there we headed to the Wall for a journey to the past. Everyone took the time to write their own personal wishes and insert them into a tiny crevice.
After exploration and reflection, it was right to the Hotel. Our trip was like a well-choreographed ballet. We moved seamlessly from one activity to the next, and more importantly, from one meal to the next! We exited the bus and were greeted by the staff of the King David. We had already been pre-checked in, so we were able to head straight up to our rooms.
We opted for a Deluxe Old City Top Floor Room with a View. These rooms have recently been renovated, and afford you a breathtaking view. We had been warned that although the rooms are considered 5 star, and had been recently updated, they are nothing to write home about. This was indeed the case.
The room was fine. The decor was quite brown, and everything was slightly disheveled.
Everything was clean though, which of course, is a priority.
The main attraction of the room though was the view. Simply magnificent!
Our first dinner in Jerusalem was at the quintessential Israeli spot- Machneyuda. Machneyuda is on virtually everyone’s list of top spots in Jerusalem, and with good reason. The food is fabulous, and it’s a blast. The MachneYuda group owns restaurants not only in Israel, but London (including the Barbary, where we just dined and loved last month), and Paris.
Machneyuda is at the edge of the Machne Yeduda market in Jerusalem, so the food is inspired by whatever is best and freshest. The open kitchen and amazing soundtrack lends an amazing energy.
Our group took the entire upstairs space on a balcony that overlooked the action. There were several points throughout the meal that we all danced down the staircase and made happy spectacles of ourselves when the music really got going. They definitely encourage displays of irrational exuberance, even showering us with napkins at one point. The restaurant is great fun, and the food is very tasty too. Some of the standouts were the simple Israeli salad,
the jarred polenta with truffles and parmigiana
and the mushroom risotto.
The food kept coming, and we kept dancing. It was an ideal welcome to Jerusalem. Sadly, the evening had to end and we headed back to the King David to get some shut eye.
We woke early excited not only for another day of discovery, but also to experience the world famous breakfast buffet at The King David. Thus was truly the King of Breakfasts, a bounty without equal. Just when you thought you had a game plan for what to taste, you discovered another tempting treat. The upside of trying to wrangle 20 people to start your day is that you end up spending extra time at the breakfast table. We put it to good use.
There was also a menu where you could order eggs, omelettes (such as this truffle omelette) and porridge.
We were glad to have four more breakfasts still to look forward to. The variety and freshness of the offerings was really quite remarkable.
Our morning plan was a foray into the Old City as well as a trip to the incredibly moving Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
The stalls and small shops in the Old City are mostly geared towards tourists, but they are still a delight to the senses.
Lunch was enjoyed at Ima Restaurant (Ima meaning mother) located in the City Center, not far from the Market. The atmosphere is very casual atmosphere but the food is delicious and abundant. The owner is actually Kurdish, so some of the flavors are somewhat unexpected.
Although the presentation was basic, the food was yummy, particularly the grapeleaves.
Roasted chicken, lamb, and best of all rice with eggplant offered a choice for any dietary restriction.
Last but not least, the crowd pleaser all over the world- extra crunchy french fries.
Following a heart wrenching visit to Yad Vashem, we were anxious to all be together in a cozy setting, which we found at Adom at The New Station. Adom has been around for about 20 years, and as I understand it, its popularity has never waned. The food and service proved to be excellent, and was just the ticket after a sad afternoon.
Once we were seated a dazzling array of appetizers came our way, and the only decision we had to make was our Mains.
The Market Salad was outstanding, the perfect mix of flavors and textures.
The Sabih (eggplant salad with chick peas, tahini and a soft boiled egg) was also superb.
The vegetarian option was squash (pumpkin fillet) over coconut rice.
The Burger was also a big hit.
We really enjoyed Adom. Although it is not new on the scene, it still maintains its excellence in both food and service. The waitstaff was incredibly accommodating.
The next day had a lot of celebrating in store, capped off by an amazing dinner at Mona , located in the heart of Jerusalem in a historic stone house. Mona excels in simple yet refined dishes that are a bit more European than Middle Eastern. Our group took the entire restaurant and indulged in all the flavors the Chefs had to offer. We also had the tables cleared for a large dance floor, and the garden open for drinks and cigars. If you are thinking of planning a party, Mona is the place to do it.
Unfortunately I missed the chance to photograph a lot of the food as I was out on the dance floor for much of the night. The desserts in particular were outrageous- that small bit of chocolate mousse shown above was just a teaser!
As far as the next day, following another stellar breakfast and a trip to an archaeological dig in the desert, we got back to town for a Machne Yehuda market tour just before Shabbat. This was when the activity at the market was at its peak. It was literally swarming with people getting their shopping done before the city shut down until Saturday evening. We had an engaging and energetic guide who kept us all close and eating at a fast pace.
I think you can get a sense of the chaos.
First stop was Georgian Khachapuri (cheese bread) which was devoured in seconds by our group.
Our guide offering up Kibbeh and incredible grape leaves from an Iraqi- Kurdish store front.
Clearly other people knew that the Falafel Sandwiches from this stall were excellent.
A selection of Börek garnished with tangy pickles.
Mountains of dried fruit were located all throughout the market.
Everything was tempting!
Get your Challah!
This was just a fraction of the tantalizing offerings, but we could only eat so much. It was exciting to experience the energy as everyone got in their last errand before they quickly headed home. At about 2:45 everything started to shut down, and by 3:00 it was like a ghost town.
Because of Shabbat the options for dining on a Friday night are slim. It is customary to reserve a table at one of the larger hotels for Shabbat dinner, so we were prepared with our private room at The King David. We had been warned that the Shabbat dinner is not quite as delectable as the King David breakfast, but in any case, the table was inviting.
The starters of Israeli salads and dips as well as desserts were worth a mention, the middle of the meal was not memorable.
It was hard to believe, but we were on the eve of our final day in Israel. Our last day was filled with highlights that would end the trip with a bang, including a trip to Masada,
a dip in the Dead Sea,
and a quick camel ride.
Exhausted and happy, we returned to the King David to pack and shower in anticipation of our farewell feast at Satya, followed by a late night flight back to NY.
Satya’s chef Ilan Grossi is innovative and creative. Each dish was more delicious than the last. The food was superb. There were several dishes that we kept ordering in multiple (beets and cauliflower) because we just couldn’t get enough!
The kitchen couldn’t keep up with our cauliflower consumption!
The beets were insanely good, so simple, but so perfect.
We were so filled with veggies that the meats were a little neglected (but still fabulous).
Just one of a wide array of unforgettable desserts, including a killer birthday cake made of three layers of mousse.
Wow! What an experience. We were so sad to leave. Our adventure was incredible, planned to perfection, highlighting the wonders and history of Israel. This was my first visit, but I am sure I will return. It’s an incredible place.