Despite its location on busy King George Avenue, Cafe Chakra offers a relaxed environment to enjoy tasty and interesting Mediterranean fare.
More a bistro than a café or restaurant, much of the charm is in the interesting decor, furniture and round glass walls, which by day provide brightness and a view of the gardens below.
Located above Chakra, one of Jerusalem’s most well-known and well-established restaurants, the bistro was opened a year ago by Chakra’s chef and owner, Ilan Garousi, with three of his former disciples, Roy Shalev, Guy Shirazi and Yasmine Grant.
Hugely popular with Jerusalem’s secular residents for weekend breakfasts, Cafe Chakra offers traditional British bacon and eggs, French croque-monsieur or croquemadame, as well as traditional Israeli breakfast and different variations of shakshuka.
My companion and I chose to sample their evening menu. We started the meal with fresh bread and a generous selection of dips and antipasti, such as tehina, coriander spread, tangy carrot and fennel salad, crunchy garlic cauliflower and other delights.
For appetizers we could not resist trying two signature bruschetta dishes borrowed from Chakra’s menu – spicy red tuna (NIS 42) and mushrooms and Parmesan (NIS 42). The spicy tuna ceviche has a delicious kick to it, without its being too overpowering, while the succulent mushrooms are a true taste of France.
We accompanied this with a Caesar salad (NIS 46 or NIS 58 with chicken), which was a delight and one of the best I have had in Israel. The leaves were very fresh, with a slight sweetness and huge crunch, and the authentic dressing was creamy and perfectly flavored.
The menu includes a wide selection of soups, salads, sandwiches and pasta, which we did not taste. Rather, we chose to sample the feta, kalamata and oregano pizza (NIS 44), baked in the stone oven by the bar. The dough is super thin but still males for a substantial crust. The pizza sauce is clearly made from fresh tomatoes and has a subtle sweetness. There was so much cheese on the thin pizza, that it was impossible to eat it without making a huge mess, which is part of the fun, but I would prefer less cheese or a slightly stronger base.
I then sampled the oven-baked salmon with potatoes (NIS 66), which was perfectly cooked with a crisp outside and moist and pink inside. My companion had the beef bourguignon (NIS 58), a hearty, wellseasoned stew of tender beef with carrots and mushrooms. Both come with a side salad with a flavorsome thick dressing of fresh mixed herbs.
To accompany our meal, we had a bottle of Alamos Malbec 2011 (NIS 96 a bottle; NIS 24 a glass), an Argentinean wine that is full-bodied, with a light sweetness and a soft finish that goes well with both fish and meat.
We ended our journey in Mediterranean cooking with deliciously moist chocolate fudge (NIS 29), a generous portion for sharing and a chocolate lover’s paradise. We also sampled cups of chocolate mousse (NIS 14) with a crunchy topping, and panna cotta (NIS 14) with a wildberry jam topping. Both are the perfect size if you want something sweet to end your meal, even if you are already full.
A visit to Cafe Chakra would not be complete without tasting their Italian Hausbrandt coffee. Even the decaffeinated version had a good strength to it, which is not always the case.
Cafe Chakra is a great location for locals, ex-pats and tourists looking for a well-cooked meal at reasonable prices. There is something on the menu for all ages and all times of day.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
41 King George Avenue, Jerusalem Tel: 072-216-3739 Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to midnight.