In an ongoing quest to uncover the consummate kosher meat restaurants in Jerusalem, which has included such thumbs-up establishments as Touro, Jacko Street and Leo, it’s sometimes advisable to check out the tried and true over the new and trendy.
That’s what I learned from a recent visit to sample the seventh-anniversary menu of the venerable chef’s restaurant Hahatzer, just off the First Station walkway. Chef Moti Ohana has created a number of new dishes without tampering with the restaurant’s successful formula of Mediterranean/Israeli/French cuisine, combining fresh local ingredients, prime cuts of meat and an inventive use of vegetables and sauces.
With a homey, rustic feeling, dim lighting and lots of wood in the design, Hahatzer is situated in one of the refurbished buildings of the original Jerusalem train station. With ample seating on two levels, there can be hustle and bustle all around, but diners can still enjoy an intimate culinary experience.
Ohana has prepared an extensive lineup that is offered in all its glory in the tasting menu which, while pricey at NIS 230 per person, provides more than its money’s worth. It was the first time in years that I actually asked for a doggy bag.
The meal started off with a mezze platter served with fresh, warm bread. Among the standout dips and salads were the eggplant cream with dates and pine nuts; the fried zucchini with tehina; and a zingy dish of mango with shredded beef and harissa, a North African hot pepper paste (NIS 56).
An endless array from the starter menu followed, with each dish outdoing the next in both taste and presentation. The endive salad – with arugula, pears, grilled beets and candied pecans in a balsamic vinaigrette (NIS 46) – provided a zesty alternative to its heavier table mates. Likewise refreshing was the ceviche, a tangy trio of red tuna, salmon and sea bream served with fruit, coriander, chili, radish and green onion But neither of them was a match for what might have been the tastiest dish of the evening – the Jerusalem fish mix, a variation of the traditional mixed grill the capital is known for. Here, tender chunks of fried tuna, salmon and sea bream were lightly stir-fried Asian style and served with onion and hot peppers in a delicious tehina and mango sauce (NIS 64).
Just as sublime was the chicken and goose liver paté served with tomato jam on toast (NIS 58) and the eggplant fillet with almond tehina, preserved lemon and sautéed filet mignon (NIS 60).
The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender and, combined with the tasty eggplant and rich tehina sauce, was one of the highlights of the meal.
We basically had no room left for the main course, which was a selection of the grilled meats on the menu. But our hosts insisted we at least taste the house specialty, the veal asado in a barbecue, orange and ginger sauce (NIS 106). And it was well worth the distress – sweet, tender and savory.
The desserts, which we also begged off, included (parve) ice cream with halva slices, warm chocolate cake and crème brule, all made with coconut milk to make them as rich as dairy creations.
The tasting menu didn’t even get to some of the other tempting entrees, such as the filet mignon in a mushroom porcini and beef stock sauce, served with asparagus and caramelized Jerusalem artichokes (NIS 136); the risotto with sweetbreads, Jerusalem artichokes and mushrooms in beef stock (NIS 68); the gnocchi stuffed with goose liver, smoked goose breast, sweetbreads and root vegetable cream (NIS 68); and the restaurant’s signature dish, the beef cheeks braised for six hours in red wine and beef stock and served with porcini mushrooms and root vegetables.
There’s always next time.
Defeated by Hahatzer, I walked out with my doggy bag with the realization that my eyes were indeed bigger than my expanding belly. But I cheered up with the thought of what I was going to have for lunch the next day.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Hahatzer Kosher 7 Derech Beit Lehem, Jerusalem Tel: 057-944-3390