Restaurant and coffee shop chains tend to have the same or similar menus and décor in all their branches. But the similarities are not absolute. There are slight to substantial differences in the various branches of Hillel, Café Gregg and Caffit. In fact, all the Caffit franchises in Jerusalem have an aura and a menu of their own, and there is little to suggest that they are all under one umbrella.
One of the chain’s newest branches, Caffit Mamilla, opened three months ago on the capital’s increasingly gentrified Shlomzion Hamalka Street, diagonally opposite the Mamilla Hotel. The premises have been through several restaurant incarnations as have others on the street, which is in an area that has become one of Jerusalem’s culinary arteries.
I recently went to the new Caffit with two friends. We ordered a green health salad, comprised mainly of lettuce, green beans, cucumbers and peppers. It came replete with a mezze of sweet and savory dips and spreads and two long freshly baked, soft, sweet dough bread sticks, which were somewhat sinful and utterly delicious. Although the three of us dug into the one salad, it was so plentiful that we couldn’t finish it.
The oil and fresh lemon juice dressing, enhanced by a little seasoning, was very refreshing and added a lot flavor to the salad.
Most dairy restaurants have similar menus, even though the presentation and taste of dishes with the same name may be different.
This branch of Caffit, aware that some of its clientele may be allergic to gluten, warns that the kitchen uses products containing gluten but adds that diners can order individually wrapped gluten-free bread.
There is also the savvy of experience that ordering any menu item for a child can be a waste of money, so there are two family options for NIS 199. The first family special includes pasta, pizza, fish and chips and salad or oreganato, which is a mix of stir-fried vegetables topped with Bulgarian cheese, croutons and walnuts and flavored with different sauces. As a main dish on its own, oreganato in four different combinations is NIS 64. The second family special is somewhat more exotic, with flamebroiled eggplant, coated cauliflower, patatas bravas, salad or oreganato and pizza or pasta.
On the regular menu, aside from fish and chips (NIS 68), main course choices include salmon filet in Dijon mustard and cream sauce (NIS 89); seared filet of rock sea bass with seasoned vegetables (NIS 95); and salmon skewers in teriyaki sauce served with basmati rice, green vegetables and crispy onion.
There are also a couple of vegetarian and vegan dishes.
For soup lovers, there are five choices, ranging from NIS 32 to NIS 36. As someone raised on dairy soups enriched by fresh or sour cream, I was pleased to note that cream had been added to the sweet potato and tomato soups.
The latter is served with gnocchi.
The proprietor of this branch is Arnon Zavdazki, who has operated other restaurant ventures but loves this one because of its position and its potential. For example, not many dairy restaurants serve alcoholic beverages, but this one does.
Upstairs in the gallery, the view from the huge circular window includes the walls of the Old City.
Downstairs, diners have the option of sitting at the L-shaped bar or at round, square or rectangular tables. There’s also an outdoor option on a raised area of the street.
There is an illustrated dessert menu full of tantalizing creamy finales. Because my friends and I were on diets, we were very happy not have seen it while we were seated. The temptation would have been a little too much.
Caffit Classic 1987 Kosher Le’mehadrin 18 Shlomzion Hamalka St., Jerusalem Tel: (02) 571-9870