With so many exceptional eateries for meat lovers having opened in Jerusalem in the last year or two, it’s easy to forget some of the veteran mainstays.
One of those establishments that have been around for a while but I had never managed to get to is Papagaya, the sumptuous Brazilian grill in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
So, with a hungry and growing 14-year-old boy in tow, I approached the spacious, nicely decorated restaurant with a carnivore’s anticipatory delight.
With two other branches in Tel Aviv and Herzliya, the franchise has garnered extensive experience in determining what types of meat its patrons like best. According to shift manager Evyatar Natan, the distinguishing characteristic of Brazilian meat is the rotisserie openflame grill that the giant skewers of different cuts are slowly broiled on, enabling the juice to be sealed in and bringing out the natural flavor.
Something else that makes Papagaya more than just another dinner out is the bustling atmosphere of the staff walking from table to table with the skewers, carving the meat in front of the diners.
There is a full menu of meat-heavy options to choose from, but most diners choose the Brazilian Table option or, in its English version, “all you can eat.”
For NIS 195 per person (NIS 95 for children under 10), diners are provided with eight different meat portions and an array of side dishes (until 6 p.m. it’s available for NIS 145).
Following that presentation of plenty, if there is any room left, you can ask for extra portions of any of the dishes.
The only stipulation is that everyone in the party takes the Brazilian Table.
Not because there’s a fear that the allyou- can-eater will distribute his treasures to his fellow diners but, according to Natan, “because a diner ordering a regular meal would be finished considerably before the other diners and would detract from the overall enjoyment of the special meal.”
Bolstered by a tasty Caipirinha cocktail, a favorite in Brazil consisting of sugar cane hard liquor (cachaça) and lime, and cola for the minor, we needed no convincing and said, “Bring it on!” Even before the staff takes orders for side dishes, the first skewer is on the way – thinly sliced London broil.
With a light, peppery seasoning, it was a brilliant choice to start off the journey.
Even as we were still enjoying the meat, another skewer arrived with chicken drumsticks. They appeared to have been marinated in a fruity sauce that packed a spicy kick and were so delicious, I instinctively looked around to see if a football game was being broadcast somewhere in the building.
Next up was a generous portion of the entrecote steak, arriving slightly more rare than the medium we had requested but delicious nonetheless.
It was then we were reminded that other types of food besides meat exist in the world when our waiter asked which side dishes we wanted – fries, baked potatoes with pesto, feijoada, which is like Brazilian cholent with rice, beans and meat in a sauce, a bizarre thing called a green salad and – after all, this is a meat restaurant – chicken wings. The waiter said we could order any or all of them, so we took the feijoada, the wings and, because I needed something that wasn’t brown, the salad.
The dishes kept on coming, interrupted only when we turned our table card from green to red, signifying that we needed a break. A glass from a bottle of red wine from the Tania Wineries in Ofra provided a brief respite from the nonstop food.
Number four was the one nonskewered item – a chicken liver and onions dish in a rich sauce that was stunning. Next was the lamb kebab, but any similarity to the kebab in the freezer section of the supermarket vanished even before they were tasted. Perfectly round medallions in shape, they were exquisite – real ground meat, tender and expertly seasoned.
The pargiyot, marinated in mustard, honey, parsley and coriander, was the first offering of the night that I found less than spectacular, but it was still darn good.
Number seven, however, more than made up for it: chunks of veal marinated in black beer. With its zesty, full flavor and chewy texture, it may well have been the standout of the evening.
The final dish didn’t match the standards of the veal, but the chicken breast in teriyaki sauce was a fine way to complete the eight offerings.
“This is the life,” said the 14-yearold, perhaps for the first time unable to eat more meat or chicken.
However, after a few minutes’ break, when the waiter asked if we wanted a repeat skewer, we both decided on one more slice of the entrecote – partially because we could and partially because it was so good.
Even though we were in no condition to consider dessert, Natan convinced us to sample a couple of items from Sarit’s Kitchen, the in-house dessert chef. One delicious chocolate soufflé cake and one scrumptious apple crisp later, we were ready to be wheeled out.
The Brazilian Table at Papagaya was truly more than just another meal. It was an upbeat, upscale eating experience perfect for a special occasion – or if you just want to make a 14-year-old boy very happy.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Papagaya Kosher (OU, Mehadrin)
3 Yad Harutzim St., Jerusalem
Tel: (02) 674-5745
Sunday to Thursday, noon to midnight