Arguably one of the most notorious locations in Jerusalem, Café de Paris sits on the corner of Ben-Maimon Street and Aza Road, a stone’s throw from the Prime Minister’s residence. The locale is part of Rehavia’s history, first as Café Moment and for the past eight years as Restobar, which caused an uproar among the city’s secular citizens when it closed in March.
Whether you agree or disagree with the building owner’s requirement that the tenants make their eatery kosher, there is no question that if anyone was going to open a new restaurant here that would keep the previous regulars happy, it would be veteran restaurateur Adi Talmor and his partners, chef Marcos Gershkovitch and Elad Varon.
Many locals are familiar with Talmor and Gershkovitch‘s partnership at Grand Café in Baka, and Varon brings his bar and nightlife expertise as Talmor’s partner in Toy Bar. The partners made a conscious decision to keep the layout of the original restaurant, giving it a facelift and changing the feel from bar to café.
Although all the desserts and cakes are made in the Grand Café pastry kitchen, the rest of the food is made onsite under the supervision of chef Danny Aviv, who was previously the sous-chef at Grand Café. The menu is more rustic than the one at the Grand. Aviv was originally a wedding dress designer but trained as a chef with Gershkovitch at his restaurant Angelica. According to Gershkovitch, he has magic hands.
My companion and I started our meal with a selection from the nine breakfasts on the menu. The poached eggs on toast with spinach in béchamel sauce (NIS 54) was my favorite. I don’t know how they managed to keep the bread so crunchy when it was surrounded by such a creamy sauce, but I savored every mouthful. The Paris breakfast (NIS 56) was unique and beautifully presented. We particularly enjoyed the cherry tomato raisins, sweet pickles and Camembert cheese, but I am not sure it will be to everyone’s taste. For a lighter option, the healthy breakfast (NIS 48) was very satisfying, with a traditional selection of eggs, cheese and whole-grain bread and the addition of a fruity quinoa salad and yogurt with muesli.
Of the main dishes we tried, the fish and chips (NIS 66) was a clear winner.
As a British expat, I can safely say that it was the best fish and chips dish I have had here so far. The batter was perfectly light and crispy, the mushy peas had the right bright green color and consistency, and the aioli had just enough tang. I found the French fries a bit chunky for my taste, but the rest of the dish made up for it.
Another excellent dish was the sweet potato and chestnut cannelloni (NIS 62) with creamed Roquefort sauce, with a rich complementary combination of flavors. Lastly, we tried the spinach ravioli (NIS 58) in roasted cherry tomato sauce with basil and garlic confit. The sauce and filling were great, but we found the pasta a little heavy compared to the cannelloni, which was much lighter.
The menu also includes a selection of salads, sandwiches and toasts, and I am excited to go back to sample them. Although there is no snack bar menu, there are a few small dishes that can be ordered as starters or as a light meal.
Ah, the desserts! I am already a huge fan of the Grand Café macaroons and have a soft spot for the pistachio flavor, but I hadn’t tried their other delights. The sweet French toast (NIS 26) with caramelized fruit and crème fraiche was light and fluffy without being overly sweet. My weakness was for the bread pudding (NIS 32) served with sour cream. If you’ve never had the pleasure, I highly recommend it. The cake counter has a large selection of cakes and desserts, including three types of cheesecake, various chocolate options and a pistachio cake.
There is not a great selection of wines by the glass, but we had a very nice glass of Gamla Syrah (NIS 34) and Cava (NIS 26). The bar is well stocked, and even though they don’t have a cocktail menu, the bar staff is willing to be creative.
As a Rehavia resident, I think Café de Paris is a great addition to the neighborhood, and although it doesn’t have the same funky vibe that Restobar had, there is definitely something for everyone there. Indeed, word has spread fast, and the café already attracts a cross-section of Jerusalem society.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Café de Paris
1 Ben-Maimon Street, Jerusalem
Sun-Thurs. 7 a.m.- 1:30 a.m.
Fri. 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Sat. 1 hour after Shabbat until 1:30 a.m.