Chef Guy Kimchi of the Latin-fusion La Boca on Emek Refaim in Jerusalem has taken ethnic food in the opposite direction. Kimchi studied at the Hadassah school of hotel management in Jerusalem, and in 2003 he traveled around South America perfecting his craft and studying the local cuisines. In Buenos Aires he liked to frequent a popular area called La Boca, a neighborhood with a lot of color, restaurants, artists and street musicians. “It was there that I came up with the idea of opening a kosher Latin restaurant in Israel,” he says.

In Argentina he learned about meat, the ceviche is from Peru, and so on around the continent. Local delicacies from every Latin American country are represented, after having been adapted to the Israeli palate. Kimchi returned to Israel in 2004, worked in a restaurant in Jerusalem and began looking for a place to open his own establishment.

Situated on the second floor of an old Templer building, La Boca, which opened in 2006, seems to be largely successful, and Kimchi, who describes himself as traditional, clearly revels in the challenges of the kosher kitchen.

Upon entering a pleasant and elegant room, we had the choice of seating in the main restaurant or on the large enclosed terrace overlooking the street. We chose the terrace which, together with the soft background music, immediately succeeded in relaxing us. Our skilled waiter was a great help in explaining the various dishes listed on the menu.

The menu offers 18 starters, such as tapas, soup, salads, carpaccio, enchiladas, ceviche and tortillas. There are 15 choices of main courses, which include fish, paella, beef, fajitas, liver and lamb. And there are six desserts, including hot churros served with parve ice cream and a tropical fruit salad.

Stand-out dishes include entrecote steak, which is served with grilled vegetables, and what has become La Boca's signature dish, ceviche (marinated fish salad) made with red tuna and served on a fried corn tortilla.

For starters, we sampled the beef carpaccio (NIS 49). The carpaccio, with a balsamic sauce, was delicious, if a bit thicker than usual. Even better was the Mexican chicken salad (NIS 53).

The portion was generous but was quite unlike the tubs of raw vegetables that most restaurants feel impelled to call salads. The finely chopped chicken, garnished with a balsamic vinaigrette, covered a bed of lettuce. It was superb. The fried corn tortilla in the salad was an added bonus.

Of the main courses, I have to admit that we were particularly taken with the mixed parrilla for two (NIS 230). What’s a mixed parrilla? A combination of entrecote, lamb ribs, spring chicken, chorizo, served with salad or crispy potato – for real meat lovers. The spring chicken was juicy, tender and, surprisingly, not very poultry-flavored. The entrecote was a soft, smooth piece of meat and nothing for a carnivore to scoff at. I liked the chorizo a lot. It is normally made from pork, but at La Boca it is made from veal with lamb fat. The ribs were good, too, with a Middle Eastern flavor seasoning the lamb.

My personal favorite was the bife de lomo – beef fillet medallions in a sweet wine and cranberry sauce. Being South African, I have an affection for sweet meats, and this dish certainly hit the spot.

After a large, heavy meal, neither my dining partner nor I was particularly interested in dessert. In the end, we gave in and tried the churros (NIS 34) – three dough cylinders seasoned and stuffed with nougat mash. My dining partner was over the moon, as she had recently traveled to South America, thereby giving it a thumbs up for its authentic taste

Overall, La Boca is a great place for nearly everyone, from a couple to a large party. Not only is the food of the highest quality, but the wait staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and their smiles are genuine. They really seem to enjoy their work.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

La Boca Kosher 46 Emek Refaim Street The German Colony, Jerusalem (02) 563-5577

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