Location, location, location.

Just as the perfect location can make up for certain shortcomings when it comes to real estate, the same can be said for restaurants. Abrage, located in the heart of Old Jaffa’s Kedumim Square, enjoys one of those settings that made my friend and me say “Wow!” when we arrived. The food, on the other hand, didn’t have the same effect. That’s not to say that the food was bad. Far from it. It just would have been a bonus if the food had matched the setting.

Named after the Zodiac Bridge, with the alleyways around the restaurant bearing the names of the signs of the zodiac, the building is in a prime spot, with a large outdoor seating area. After walking through the courtyard filled with tables, we walked up the stairs to the 100-year-old main building from the Ottoman period, complete with arabesque arches and a picturesque terrace overlooking the sea.

We were invited to sample dishes from the new menu, which offers a wide range of fresh fish, seafood and meat dishes, all influenced by Mediterranean cuisine.

Our waitress was friendly and competent enough but lacked the experience to offer any of those extra touches that can turn a pleasant evening into a magical one.

The many options on the comprehensive starter menu meant that making a decision took a while. Eventually I went for the mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese, served with black lentil salad (NIS 34), while my friend ordered the fish ceviche with red peppers, thinly sliced red onion and lots of lemon (NIS 35). Both starters were tasty enough, but neither was anything to write home about. However, for the relatively low prices for a restaurant in this area, the portions were of a fair size.

Even though there was a good selection of meat choices for the main course, we both opted for fish. I had the gilt-head bream fillet (NIS 92), which was served with tomatoes, thyme and herbs and a side of beet puree. Despite the fact that the fish was not cooked all the way through, the dish was tasty. It was well seasoned, and the puree was a treat. However, wasting excessive amounts of effort trying to cut through rubbery, undercooked fish took something away from the experience.

My friend fared slightly better with her Norwegian salmon fillet baked in miso sauce, ginger and orange (NIS 79) with a fresh market salad. Again, the flavors worked well, and the large portion was well presented. But there was a certain wow factor missing.

Being a guest of the restaurant sometimes comes with a few drawbacks. In a bid to “punish” us, the slightly eccentric owner decided to prepare a plate of desserts so huge that the large mounds of extra whipped cream were almost dripping off the side for lack of space. The plate consisted of chocolate souffle, a Spanish-style creme brulee, as well as a special local dessert called atayef, which consisted of walnuts, coconut and cinnamon wrapped in a fluffy pastry, with traditional sauce of sugar water and maple syrup. Each dessert ordered separately costs NIS 38. If only all punishments were like this one. While all three were incredibly rich, the desserts went down very well.

With an exciting new menu and a magical setting in the heart of Jaffa’s Old City, Abrage is well worth a visit. The food may not be the best on offer, but it offers good value for money.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Abrage
Not kosher
6 Kedumim Square, Old City, Jaffa (03) 524-4445
Sunday to Saturday, 9 a.m. – midnight


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