Situated at the far end of the Crowne Plaza lobby in Jerusalem, Indian restaurant Kohinoor is centrally located and easily accessible.

Kohinoor is the name of one of the world’s most famous diamonds that supposedly originated some 800 years ago from a mine in India and, after years of changing numerous hands, is now fixed in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth. The crown is on display along with the other British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

The owners of the restaurant seem to have intended for their establishment to be regarded as a “jewel” among other restaurants and, after tasting the excellent dishes, they have clearly achieved that goal.

Co-owner and chef Reena Pushkarna has achieved a uniqueness that few restaurants in Jerusalem have matched. At Kohinoor, says the menu, you will find cuisine of Mogul emperors, the earthly delights of clay ovens, Parsi dishes and specialties of Goa. Indeed, the food served at the restaurant is drawn from recipes from around India.

The menu, which artfully includes handwritten recipes, is full of choices, and it is almost overwhelming to select from among them. Thankfully, our waiter was on hand to suggest some choices and offer the option of not-so-spicy, medium spicy or very spicy for just about everything.

Curried vegetable soup (NIS 27), garlic kulcha (oven-baked bread stuffed with garlic) and onion kulcha (NIS 20) were brought to our table and made a great beginning to what became an aroma-rich, very tasty and filling meal.

The waiter brought out a bottle of Merlot, which served as a great pairing for the rest of the meal.

The Tandoori chicken (prepared in a special clay oven brought from India) and chicken Kastoori (NIS 72) were excellent as were the chicken tikka (NIS 72) and beef vindaloo. The chicken tangri drumsticks, marinated in a mild masala sauce and broiled in the tandoor oven were perfect.

Vegetarians can easily eat at Kohinoor, as the non-meat choices, including basmati rice, are plentiful and rather delicious. The Delhi salad is pretty much like an Israeli salad except that the vegetables are cut larger. According to one of the many commentaries on the menu, at least one cooked vegetarian dish is a must at every Indian meal. It is a misconception that everything that is spicy in Indian food is curry. Indian cuisine is very diverse, with numerous regional, cultural and religious variations.

After the main course, the waiter brought warm rosewater with which to clean our hands – a practice many of Israel’s restaurants should adopt. It is a pleasurable experience to be able to formally rinse fingers at the table.

Dessert consisted of various sorbets (NIS 27) – all of them refreshing – and elaichi kheer (NIS 29), a delicious cardamom-flavored rice pudding dish.

Kohinoor is more of a family-style restaurant. And the decor at the entrance and inside the restaurant attempts to give you the feeling that you are actually in India.

All in all, Kohinoor is highly recommended for those who want to take a break from ordinary eateries and indulge in unique and great-tasting food in a slightly more exotic atmosphere.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Kohinoor Kosher Crowne Plaza Hotel, Jerusalem Tel: (02) 653-6667

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