I have a theory that a long restaurant menu is an indication of mediocre food. Think about it: If you’re busy cooking one of everything, you can’t really specialize in anything. And that is why when I opened the menu at the recently reincarnated Shraga Cafe in downtown Jerusalem, I breathed a sigh of relief.
The menu has all the standard café categories – breakfasts, salads, sandwiches, hot dishes, desserts, hot drinks and cold drinks. However, no category contains more than a handful of options. The longest section is the sandwich section – and that’s because the sandwich is Shraga’s star.
Each sandwich is named for a color. I went for the Yellow Sandwich (NIS 33): It consisted of aioli, Gouda, tomato, pickles and lettuce on warmed sourdough bread made onsite. It also came with a side salad, which stood out for its light, tangy and slightly sweet vinaigrette and some surprise slices of pear mixed in.
The sandwich itself was well balanced, with no one ingredient overpowering the others. It was also evidently constructed with care: The layers were neatly aligned and pleasing to the eye. It wasn’t skimpy, either.
Colors actually play a noticeable role at Shraga. The café is decorated in solids of gray, light blue and white, which, along with the floor-to-very-high-ceiling windows, give the space a light, airy feel. Pressed cedar boards support a wooden bar in the center of the space. Ceiling fans move the air around. Potted purple flowers adorn the tables. All together, Shraga is like a country industrial hybrid.
Along the color theme, I ordered a fresh-squeezed apple juice (NIS 14), which was the bright green of Granny Smith apples, with the same sweet tartness. I’m not normally a huge juice drinker, but that was a big hit. I am, however, a coffee drinker. And Shraga’s “hafuch” passed muster as well.
The small cup (NIS 12) tasted refreshingly like coffee, as opposed to the hot brown milk some places attempt to pass off as java. Chef Nir Kedar was trained in American diners and California kitchens, and he brought that style of basic good food (and even a vegan option or two) to the heart of Jerusalem.
In the spirit of ordering more food than I can eat, I also gave the wild mushroom-filled tortellini (NIS 51) a try. The pasta had plenty of filling so that the mushrooms were more than a rumor, and the tomato-cream sauce was spiced pleasantly without drowning the pasta.
Luckily for the overeaters among us, Shraga does a mean takeaway (and delivery) service. They will make up a lunchbox to go.
Wrapped in a cardboard box, the lunch consists of a sandwich, salad, muffin and plasticware. The sandwiches travel well, as my leftovers proved hours later. Plus, Shraga does trays for catering or Shabbat.
Shraga is not a pretentious eatery. The ingredients are simple, and the dishes are not gourmet.
However, Shraga knows what it’s doing. The focus is on quality, convenience and flavor. And in those categories, Shraga wins top marks. It doesn’t hurt that the prices are lower than its café-chain competitors, either.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
3 Yannai street, Jerusalem (kitty corner from the Mamilla Hotel)