Scala at Jerusalem’s David Citadel Hotel.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There’s a reason why Scala has been included on Fox News’s list of the 101 best restaurants in the world in hotels. And it’s not because the establishment is virulently anti-Obama – it’s because the food is outstanding. In the magical hands of chef Oren Yerushalmi, who has been at the helm of the restaurant on the fourth floor of Jerusalem’s David Citadel Hotel since it opened four and a half years ago, Scala is one of the capital’s best-kept culinary secrets.
Yerushalmi, a graduate of Le Notre Culinary Institute in France, with many years’ experience at top New York City restaurants Café Bouley and WD50, was enticed to return to Israel to create the menu of his dreams.
Two menus, actually, as the elegantly decorated, dimly lit Scala doubles as a full-scale chef kitchen and as a bar with its own tapas menu.
“The concept is very simple. We’re not gearing to the elite, just highquality food at reasonable prices,” said Yerushalmi on the winter night my wife and I visited the restaurant for the first time. “Eating should be fun and pleasing to the eye and the palate, without being fancy and formal.”
Admitting that it’s a challenge to juggle the restaurants role as a venue for hotel guests and the public at large, within the confines of kashrut, Yerushalmi said that it’s a challenge he savors.
“Hotel restaurants have a negative reputation, a stigma. But that didn’t bother me. And there are so many high-quality non-kosher restaurants, I wanted to create a high-quality kosher one,” he said.
As evidenced by a sampling of the dishes on both menus, he has wildly succeeded in his quest.
The bar menu items were simply delicious. The lamb, pita and pine nuts, served with chopped tomatoes and spicy peppers (NIS 50), was big enough for a meal and tasty enough for two. Likewise, the goose liver bruschetta with charred onion and walnuts (NIS 60) and the tortilla filled with chopped meat and roasted peppers baked with avocado cream (NIS 50). One of those items and a custom-made cocktail from the extensively stocked bar would be a per fect and economically sound night out.
But the main Scala menu beckoned.
For appetizers, the denis fish in Spanish arisa with potato, cured lemons, seared onions and tomatoes (NIS 72) provided a refreshingly light touch. At the other end of the spectrum, the risotto with root vegetable an anise, boasting confit of dark duck meat and puree of Jerusalem artichoke in chicken stock (NIS 82), was rich and to-die-for delicious.
Only professional duty forced us to continue to the main courses. The pan-seared chicken breast ser ved with sweet potato, onion marmalade and brandy, chestnuts and dates in a chicken stock (NIS 102) was the first dish that didn’t wow us, but the entrecote with potato puree, green beans, shallots and beef stock (NIS 152) more than made up for it. Other offerings include pan-seared sea bream fillets (NIS 132), osso buco (NIS 148) and beef fillet medallions (NIS 175).
Yerushalmi insisted that we sample his par ve desserts, claiming that we wouldn’t be able to tell that they didn’t contain dair y products. And he was right. The hazelnuts and coffee cream featuring cocoa sable, caramelized hazelnuts and almond cream was a chocolate lover’s delight, and the sponge cake with coconut and lime made a fan out of this sponge cake non-lover.
Scala is truly a gem amid the Jerusalem culinar y landscape. When guests arrive in a couple months for a family event, I now have the per fect place to take them.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
David Citadel Hotel King David Street, Jerusalem
Tel: (02) 621-2030
Sunday – Thursday, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m